Stop Heroin: Taking a Stand

Record Managing Editor

He will be known for the hugs he gave.

Everyone he encountered he called “Broski.”

Those are some of the memories that Kelli Clodfelter recalls about her son, Jordan Lunsford. The 17-year-old Warrenton resident died Nov. 15, 2014, from a heroin overdose.

“He was the sweetest, kindest, loving kid that would do anything for anyone,” Clodfelter said.

Since Jordan’s passing, two other heroin overdoes — both females ages 24 and 37 — have been reported in the county.

By all accounts, from law enforcement to paramedics to others, there has been a surge in heroin use at the local level as drug users turn to it because it’s a cheaper option and has similar effects to that of a prescription pain killer.

Clodfelter said it’s time for the community to begin talking about the growing drug problem and how it is affecting people and their families. That means sharing the tragic and unexpected end to her son’s life.

“I won’t give up,” Clodfelter said. “I will not let my 17-year-old son die and not fight.”

You can see the complete photo gallery from the event here: http://bit.ly/15xmZJI

The past few months have been like a bad dream that Clodfelter cannot shake. Five weeks prior to Jordan’s death, her 3-month-old daughter died from SIDS.

“I think he was in a very bad place and made a bad decision around people that didn’t care and he died from it,” a tearful Clodfelter said.

Similar journey

Gee Vigna understands exactly what Clodfelter is going through.

On Jan. 3, 2013, Vigna’s 20-year-old daughter Nicky died from a heroin overdose. It was the tragic end of a difficult, emotional journey for the family who resides in St. Peters.

The family discovered Nicky’s addiction three years earlier, during her senior year of high school. One day she was found unconscious in her bedroom. Nicky had track marks all over her arms.

“We knew nothing about it,” Gee Vigna said.

Nicky went to rehab, and for the three years that followed, her recovery was interrupted with moments of relapse. Eventually, heroin took her life.

The Vignas have since been working to raise awareness about heroin, a drug known as the “silent killer” for the way it controls — and ends — lives. What they have learned is that overdoses are becoming a regular occurrence.

“We thought it was only happening to us,” Gee Vigna said. “It does not matter the demographics of your area. It does not discriminate. It is everywhere.”

In the aftermath of Nicky’s death, the Vignas created Walking for Wellness: Stop Heroin, a non-profit organization. The group has hosted awareness walks in several cities. A support group also has been formed and meets monthly at Barnes-Jewish Hospital in St. Peters.

“We had such a huge portion of our life taken away from us, but we have been blessed to have some tremendous people in our lives to help us through this journey.”

Packing the sidewalks

On Saturday, a crowd estimated to be over 500 people attended a Stop Heroin Walk in Warrenton. Attendees donned neon-colored shirts and sweatshirts that read “Stop Heroin,” and carried various signs, some featuring messages and pictures of loved ones whose lives ended because of their heroin use. Attendees packed the parking lot at Holy Rosary Church and marched to First Bank and back.

The walk was inspired by Clodfelter, a way for her to honor her son’s memory but also bring attention to the increasing heroin use in the county. A second walk was held simultaneously in Texas where Jordan’s father resides.

Many people, Clodfelter said, are unaware of heroin’s existence in local communities or the danger associated with its use.“I feel like we have to make a stand,” Clodfelter said.

“I feel like I am the person to make that stand because its the only way to keep my sanity with all that has happened to my family.”

Brighter days ahead

Clodfelter acknowledges her son Jordan was not a perfect child. He quit high school after he turned 17 and moved in and out of her home when strict rules were enforced. For a short period, he moved to Texas to live with his dad.

After his baby sister died, Jordan returned to Missouri to live with his mom. He was home for about two weeks, but as Clodfelter encouraged him to get his GED, he became frustrated and left for one final time.

A couple of weeks later, Jordan was dead. Police said he was with others at a home in the 100 block of Oak Street in Warrenton and had allegedly been using Xanax and “roxy,” described as a powerful narcotic pain killer. He also used heroin for what Clodfelter claims was the first time.

He fell unconscious in the home. Scared over the possible repercussions from police arriving on the scene, none of the other individuals present called 911. Instead, Jordan was driven to St. Joseph Hospital West in Lake St. Louis, at least a 20-minute drive.

Doctors were able to get a heartbeat, but by that time, he was brain dead.

“They could have done many things without making that long drive,” Clodfelter said.

Police executed a search warrant at the Warrenton home two days following Jordan’s death. Two men were taken into custody and charged, including a 24-year-old male who lived at the home and was allegedly found with heroin and crack cocaine.

This month, a 35-year-old female who allegedly supplied drugs to Jordan on the day he died has been charged with felony distribution.

Clodfelter attended a recent court hearing where a motion to reduce the woman’s $25,000 cash-only bond was denied. For now, it is a small victory.

“They preyed on my child because he was young and vulnerable,” she said. “They definitely took advantage of my kid. You can watch somebody die and it’s not against the law. There were a lot of people there that watched this happen to my kid.”

Saturday’s walk was just the start of a plan to bring together community leaders and identify resources to educate the public about heroin and its powerful addiction.

Clodfelter knows brighter days are ahead for her and her family. Every day she will be a little stronger. Every day there will be less tears.

“Our youth are our future and if we don’t fight for them, where will we be?” she said. “I don’t want any father or mother to live my nightmare.”

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