Ohio Couple Embarks on Mission to Save Lives After Losing 9 to Opioid Use

By Victoria Kim 01/30/18

Diana and Mike Yoder lost nine family members to opioids. They're now leading and helping others to save their own loved ones.

holding hands
“We don’t want to go to any more funerals.”

An Ohio couple is on a mission to help other families find help for opioid addiction, after losing nine of their own

“It has become a mission for us,” Diana Yoder told The Columbus Dispatch. “We don’t want to go to any more funerals.”

Diana and her husband Mike, from the city of Pickerington, were named this month as co-chairs of the Ohio chapter of the Addiction Policy Forum, a DC-based non-profit organization that focuses on increasing awareness and promoting policies that address drug use prevention, treatment and criminal justice reform. 

The couple is hoping to use their platform to reach Ohio families that need help but don’t know what to do. “We have to find these families, and we have to help them with the resources that they need,” said Diana. “Many of them struggle in silence. There are solutions, and there are resources.” 

Diana Yoder has lost nine family members to opioid addiction, including her nephew and his son, just 10 days apart. She said that having access to help could have saved them. “We just didn’t know where to go. We made a lot of mistakes,” said Mike. “If we had more information, we could have handled it a lot better.”

The Ohio Department of Health reported that drug overdose deaths increased from 3,050 in 2015 to 4,050 in 2016. The rising death rate is attributed to the growing use of fentanyl, an opioid painkiller that was created for medical use but is now better known as a potent alternative to heroin on the street.  

Ohio’s overdose death rate—39.1 per 100,000 Ohioans—is second only to West Virginia. According to the Dispatch, 11 people die of a drug overdose every day in Ohio—with 86% of the deaths having to do with prescription or illicit opioids.

“It’s unacceptable that we’re losing an entire generation to this crisis when there is treatment and there is a cure,” said Diana. “And so we need all hands on deck to make this happen.”

Through their work with the Addiction Policy Forum, Mike and Diana hope to lessen the stigma surrounding addiction, and encourage people to talk about it and seek help.

Last December, the city of Columbus, which is not too far from Pickerington, filed a lawsuit against 25 drug companies, claiming they precipitated the state’s opioid crisis by pushing a “well-developed marketing scheme… to sell opioids for the treatment of chronic pain.” 

The lawsuit claims that the city “has suffered significant harm and damages, including, but not limited to, the breakdown of families, increased health insurance costs, increased police and fire usage, increased usage of the criminal justice system and other significant harms. Columbus also is faced with a significant addiction problem it must abate and remedy.”

Other Ohio cities, Cincinnati, Dayton, Toledo, and the state of Ohio filed similar lawsuits, according to NBC4i.

The Yoders hope to unite communities, including educators, health care professionals, scientists, law enforcement, faith leaders, lawmakers, and more in the fight to save Ohioans. 

“We’re all in the same war fighting the same enemy. We’re just in different infantries, so we all have to come together,” said Diana.

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Victoria is interested in anything that has to do with how mind-altering substances impact society. Find Victoria on LinkedIn or Tumblr