Grieving mother warns Menahga teens about opioid addiction
Two years ago, Colleen Ronnei lost her 20-year-old son, Luke, to a drug overdose. The family lives in Chanhassen, but spends their summers on Hinds Lake. On Nov. 7, Ronnei brought her story to Menahga High School students. Ronnei founded Change t...
Two years ago, Colleen Ronnei lost her 20-year-old son, Luke, to a drug overdose.
The family lives in Chanhassen, but spends their summers on Hinds Lake.
On Nov. 7, Ronnei brought her story to Menahga High School students.
Ronnei founded Change the Outcome in July 2017 "with the goal of developing educational initiatives for young people," according to the website (changetheoutcome.org).
Since November 2017, Ronnei and several young adults in recovery have spoken with more than 10,000 students across Minnesota.
Last summer, Ronnei created a documentary about how the opioid epidemic is impacting Minnesota youth. It premiered at the Twin Cities Film Festival.
By telling the story of young Minnesotans' experience with addiction, Ronnei hopes to produce a message that can better resonate with middle school and high school audiences.
A screening of the documentary was followed by a panel discussion with Ronnei, three young adults in recovery and Wadena County Sheriff Mike Carr.
Luke died in January 2016 of an accidental overdose in his family home.
"His struggle with the disease of addiction was brief - two years, half of which he was in recovery. It was a relapse that killed him," Ronnei said.
It only takes seven to 14 days to become addicted to opioids, Ronnei explained. The opioids relapse rate is 95 percent.
"Luke tried really hard," she said.
Ronnei advises everyone to carry Narcan (naloxone) to reverse overdoses. She noted the Federal Drug Administration also supports greater access to naloxone to help reduce opioid overdose deaths.
"We did not have Narcan in our house the day Luke died," Ronnei said.
She challenged Menahga teens to go home and talk their parents about their family tree and any predisposition to addiction.
Principal Mark Frank thanked the panelists for sharing their personal accounts.
"To see the pain in her eyes, I don't want to have to have that conversation with any of your parents or any of you because one of your friends that you're sitting next to today isn't here tomorrow. Communication is huge. Knowledge is power. This is an epidemic. This isn't just a Menahga thing. This affects us all," he said.