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The home for VPR's coverage of health and health industry issues affecting the state of Vermont.

Months After Her Daughter Overdosed And Died, Mom Says Stigma Remains

Amy Marcinko holds up a photo of her children. Her daughter Melanie, the youngest, died in March 2018 after an overdose.
Henry Epp
Amy Marcinko holds up a photo of her children. Her daughter Melanie, the youngest, died in March 2018 after an overdose.

While increased resources have been put towards combating Vermont's opioid crisis in recent years, the number of accidental deaths attributed to opioids have increased. Amy Marcinko is just one of the parents who've lost a child.

Her 27-year-old daughter Melanie died in early 2018. Marcinko said the reaction to her daughter's death has occasionally been harsh.

"I had one person actually come up to me and say, 'Only dopes take dope,' " Marcinko told VPR. "Somebody else said, 'Well, maybe God will take pity on her.'"

Marcinko, who lives in the eastern Franklin County town of Montgomery, said she's felt isolated since her daughter's death.

Listen to Amy Marcinko's conversation with Henry Epp above.

As a child, Marcinko said her daughter, the youngest of five children, was sensitive.

"I remember when she was in fifth grade, she wouldn't get on the school bus because she just started, like, washing her own hair and the kids started teasing her, like you know, ‘You smell like cat pee,’ or something," Marcinko said. "So I'd have to smell her head every day before she got on the bus. She was just one of those really sensitive girls. You know, as much as we tried, that was just her nature."

Below are some excerpts from Amy Marcinko's interview with Henry Epp:

On How Addiction Is Viewed And Treated In Vermont

"People don't talk about it," Marcinko said of addiction. But Melanie's obituary explained her struggle with addiction.

"My daughter wrote it, and she wasn't going to try to cover it up. 'Melanie was a victim of the opioid crisis in this country,' and ... the backlash is pretty intense. People don't visit me."

"There were some very nice people. The priest's brother made her tombstone, and he did it personally and it was very very kind of him. And I had one person drop off some soup, but nobody really wanted to talk and say, 'How are you doing?' Somehow there needs to be more community acceptance."

What Resources She Thinks Are Needed In Montgomery

"We do have Turning Point in St. Albans which is good, but it's very far away," Marcinko said.

"If you don't have a car and you're strung out, and I do believe they have a hotline, but you don't hear about it all that much. What they need is a facility to go to. I think there's Valley Vista, and then there's the Brattleboro Retreat, but that's two places. But where do you get help? I mean, I don't know."

Her Advice To Other Parents Whose Children Have Substance Use Disorder

"Don't give up on them," Marcinko said. "Don't give up on your child."

"Either you make it or you don't with drug addiction. That's the bottom line, you know. And yet you say, 'Let them hit their bottom,' but the bottom is, now with fentanyl, now you just don't overdose, you die."

This is part of a series of interviews airing on VPR this week to mark the five-year anniversary of Shumlin's State of the State speech on addiction. Check here for more stories throughout the week.

Henry worked for Vermont Public as a reporter from 2017 to 2023.
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