Group: Laws Protect Those Who Help Stop OD Deaths

Donna Towe said if love or money could have saved her daughter, Taygan, she'd still be alive.

Towe said Taygan, 29, who died in July 2015, had been in and out of various rehab programs and jail for a decade since she began using opioid drugs as a high-school student.

"We battled it for 10 years," Towe said. "We spent our whole life savings. … I knew she was going to die. We cried. We begged. We tried everything in the world. It was so hard to think there was nothing we could do to save her."

But Towe is hoping to get the word out about something she thinks might have saved her daughter: naloxone, an antidote to opioid overdose.

Towe never got all the details of her daughter's death but was told she died after taking a pill containing the potent opioid fentanyl, thinking it was the sedative Xanax. Towe said Taygan was in a home with other people who "propped her up on the couch" but didn't give naloxone or call for help. By the time Taygan got to the hospital, the next day, she was brain dead, Towe said.

Taygan's picture is featured on some of the 20 designs grass roots nonprofit Tennessee Overdose Prevention has put on two digital billboards — one in Solway, the other at Clinton Highway — for a month.

The billboards, paid for by a gift from Tennessee Overdose Prevention founder Nancy Daniels' mother, are designed to let people know naloxone is available without a prescription at some pharmacies, such as CVS; the state is working on language to allow widespread distribution through pharmacies.

The group also wants people to know Tennessee is among states that have laws protecting "good Samaritans" who dispense naloxone to someone overdosing, or who call 911 — even if they themselves are using drugs.

"After all I'd been through with Taygan, I had never heard of naloxone," Towe said. "I didn't realize people didn't call 911" when people they were with overdose. "I'd never heard all these stories."

She said Taygan was "a wonderful child with great friends" and a talented gymnast before addiction took hold. She was repeatedly sober — once for more than a year — but always fell back in the grip of drugs, ultimately losing her two children, with whom Towe is now trying to get more visitation.

On Wednesday night, the nonprofit will have a ceremony at Volunteer Landing to memorialize those lost to drugs — 200 last year in Knox and Anderson counties alone — as well as educate the public on how to help.

"Knox County is flooded with people just like my daughter," Towe said. "Some make it. But I don't know many.

"Taygan was raised in a wonderful home, full of love. It can happen to anyone, and I don't think people realize it."

If you go

What: International Overdose Awareness Day; speakers, candlelight vigil

When: 6-9 p.m. Wednesday

Where: Volunteer Landing

Info: Nancy, 865-599-4776; www.tnoverdoseprevention.org

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© 2016 by Tennessee Overdose Prevention.

If they're still alive, there's hope.