Drug Cop Felt He Was 'Doing God’s Work' Until Addiction Hit His Family

By Kelly Burch 10/13/17

His daughter was just 17 when she first told him that she was addicted to prescription opioids. Two years later, she died of a heroin overdose. 

Kevin Simmers holding a picture of his daughter Brooke
Kevin Simmers holding a picture of his daughter Brooke Photo via YouTube

Kevin Simmers joined the police force during the height of the war on drugs. He trained with drug detection dogs in the Air Force and eventually returned to West Virginia to join a local drug task force, convinced that arresting drug users was the way to fight drug addiction.

It wasn’t until decades later when his daughter became addicted to opioids that he realized the complexities of the disease. 

“At the end of the night, we’d go home and say ‘man—we got seven arrests tonight, we’re putting a dent in this stuff,” Simmers told WAMU, a public radio station based at American University in Washington D.C. “I felt like I was doing God’s work. Then when it hit my own family, I was in for an awakening.”

Simmers’ daughter Brooke was just 17 when she first told him that she was abusing prescription opioids. Two years later, despite her father’s efforts, Brooke died of a heroin overdose at 19 years old. 

Her death broke Simmers’ heart and forced him to reexamine his ideas about addiction. 

“I believed wholeheartedly that enforcement—incarceration—was the answer to this,” Simmers said. “But then when addiction hit my house, I saw that that wasn’t true. What we need is drug treatment. We need to help the person.”

Simmers retired from his law enforcement work, and is now working to start Brooke’s House, a long-term residential treatment facility for young women. 

Simmers realized at Brooke’s funeral that he needed to try and help other young women in her position. He decided to do that by fulfilling a promise that he made to Brooke during one of her too-short stints in sobriety, this time during a jail sentence. 

Brooke told him that she wanted to build a beautiful house for women in recovery to live in during early sobriety. 

“I said, ‘If you stay clean for a year, I’ll get you the house. Whatever I can do.’ I’m not a wealthy person, but I figured whatever I got to do, I’ll do it,” Simmers said.

Sadly Brooke was not able to maintain her sobriety. Just two weeks after she was released from jail, she drove around her father’s parked police cruiser to buy the drugs that killed her. Now, Simmers is determined to make Brooke’s vision a reality. 

“We are going to fulfill Brooke’s dream and build that house for women who are in recovery,” he said. Simmers has raised more than $500,000, and estimates he needs about $1 million more to get Brooke’s house up and running. 

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Kelly Burch writes about addiction and mental health issues, particularly as they affect families. Follow her on TwitterFacebook, and LinkedIn.