If the stories in Scott Brown’s new book, “Hope and Heartbreak: Beyond the Numbers of the Opioid Epidemic,” sound familiar, it might be because they are.
Brown, a Greensburg native and former sports reporter for the Tribune-Review, ESPN and Philadelphia Inquirer, mined a decade of reports on the epidemic to produce a heartfelt compendium of the lives of those living this nightmare in the region where he grew up.
The self-published book, released last month by RedMark Publishing of Lincoln, Neb. ($16.95), will be available on Amazon and, hopefully, in local bookstores soon, Brown said.
Brown will be on hand for a discussion and book signing event from 11 a.m. until 12:30 p.m. Saturday at DV8 Espresso Bar & Gallery at 208 S. Pennsylvania Ave., Greensburg.
The 47-year-old journalist said he was oblivious to the depth of the suffering around him until two things drove it home.
“I was way late in waking up to this. A lot of this dates back to the early 2000s. But, I think I started to notice it when I went to work for Judge Scott Mears in family court in 2016. We’d get people coming in for emergency custody petitions and, a lot of times, it was grandparents or siblings trying to get custody of a child they felt was in a dangerous position due a parent’s addiction,” Brown said.
“Then, I had a really good friend and she lost her son to an overdose. I was with her when she got the news. She knew her son struggled with addiction for years. In the back of her mind, she knew there was a chance that she would get that call but, even when it came, it was shattering and heartbreaking,” he said.
Initially, Brown thought he would travel to Ohio or West Virginia to mine the depths of the epidemic. But, as he read local news accounts, it became apparent the epidemic was raging just outside his Greensburg door.
Stories like Sharon Stinebiser’s tale of how she lost her two sons to overdoses — in a basement bedroom on the same night — were seared into his consciousness.
A Latrobe woman’s fight to create Angel Arms to help babies born exposed to opioids touched his heart.
A mother’s decision to include her daughter’s overdose as the cause of death in an obituary that went viral, a father’s outreach after his son’s overdose death and a former addict’s work to help others in recovery are among the stories he details.
Brown said he found hope in those who have tried to lift the stigma of addiction. But they can’t do it alone, he said.
“When someone goes for help, you think that’s the hard part. They go to rehab and it’s over. But, in reality, that’s the easy part. If they don’t have job prospects or hope, it’s hard. As a community here, we have to find a way to reintegrate them into the community, helping them find employment or get some kind of driving privileges back so they can get to work and treatment. I would just hope that people would read this and look at things a little differently,” Brown said.