Journalist Reports On Daughter’s Overdose Death To Raise Awareness

By Kelly Burch 09/12/18

“The opioid epidemic has hit home in a tragic and devastating way for me, personally. On May 16, my 21-year-old daughter Emily died from an overdose.”

Angela Kennecke
News anchor Angela Kennecke Photo via YouTube

South Dakota news anchor Angela Kennecke has reported on the opioid epidemic for a decade, but she never imagined that she would be sharing the news of her own daughter’s overdose death with viewers.

However, that’s just what Kennecke did when she returned to work four months after her daughter fatally overdosed on fentanyl. 

“The opioid epidemic has hit home in a tragic and devastating way for me, personally,”  Kennecke said from the news desk. “On May 16, my 21-year-old daughter Emily died from an overdose.”

In an interview with CBS, Kennecke said that Emily’s father called her and said that he thought Emily had overdosed. “I can’t even describe to you what it’s like to hear those words,” Kennecke said.  

After speaking at Emily’s funeral, Kennecke felt the need to take her family’s story public in order to raise awareness about opioid addiction, and the role it can play in all families. 

“I never would have dreamed that, but because it’s hit home in such an awful, devastating way, I just feel so compelled to let everybody know what happened to my daughter can happen to you. It could happen to your child,” she said.

Kennecke said that after years of asking people to talk about their most intimate losses, she felt that she should share her experience. 

“I thought I can let this loss, this devastation destroy me, or I can do something about it. I thought I have to talk about it. I have an obligation to talk about it,” she said. “My number one reason to talk about it is to erase the stigma around addiction, especially the use of heroin and opioids.”

Kennecke said that she knew Emily was using marijuana, but she never imagined that her daughter would be injecting opioids. 

“It was the most shocking thing to me,” she said in the interview. “Needles? Middle-class kid, privileged, all these opportunities and things like that. It's hard to explain addiction. It's hard to understand. My child ran out of the doctor's office once when she was going to get a shot.”

Kennecke said that she had to walk a fine line between helping Emily and alienating her. She said that she was working to get Emily help, but said, “I just didn’t get there in time.”

After her loss, Kennecke said she went from asking “why me” to “why not me,” when she realized that addiction can touch anyone. Now, she has set up Emily’s Hope, a fund that will help others afford treatment. 

“That’s really all I can do with this,” said Kennecke. 

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