‘F*** you, Opioids’ — Funeral Director’s Very Jersey Response to Deadly Addiction
EAST BRUNSWICK — A Middlesex County funeral director minced no words in a post about opioid addiction.
Not known as a man to swear, the usually even-tempered Peter Kulbacki of Brunswick Memorial Funeral Home posted an essay titled "F**k you, Opioids" to express his frustration at the increase in deaths he has handled because of substance abuse and addiction.
"What am I supposed to say when we get a call from someone telling me that a loved one has passed from an overdose? I’m sorry? Please accept my condolences? Yeah, that’s what I say, but you know what? My visceral response when I hang up the phone is F**K you opioids," wrote Kulbacki, whose family can trace their family lineage back to when the township was first incorporated in 1860.
The post has been shared by countless people online.
Kulbacki said he has seen a "notable increase" in the number of addiction related deaths and said in the last three or four weeks he has handled three
Kulbacki, told the Townsquare News Network he was inspired by a similar piece written for an industry journal he said was far more graphic than his article. And by the fact that Middlesex County is ranked one of the top four counties in New Jersey for opioid overdoses, according to the state Department of Human Services Report on substance abuse for 2016.
"We're not in Trenton. We're not in Newark. We're not in Camden ... We're in East Brunswick. We're in Middlesex County, a fairly affluent area. The deaths we're handling are from good families. From good parents. People that I know, that as far as I can tell, they did a good job. So where did the addiction come from? Where did the poison come from? It's insane. It's really insane."
The essay was posted before Tuesday's announcement by President Trump in Bedminster. The president vowed that "we will fight this deadly epidemic and the United States will win."
Trump did not announce any new policy, but vowed to work with health professionals and law enforcement on the crisis. He said federal drug prosecutions have dropped but promised he would "be bringing them up rapidly."
He also said, "We're very, very tough on the Southern border, where much of this comes in."
Gov. Chris Christie's federal drug commission recently called on Trump to declare a national emergency to deal with the opioid crisis. The commission says the approximately 142 deaths each day from drug overdoses mean the death toll is "equal to September 11th every three weeks."
On Tuesday, the New Hampshire attorney general filed a lawsuit against Cranbury-based OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma. Purdue and other pharmaceutical companies also are being sued by the state of Missouri.
Kulbacki said it goes beyond just numbers.
"How many deaths are there that are listed as a suicide? Whether it's by hanging, whether it's by gunshot or by other means. But sitting with the families and making arrangements we hear the back story and we hear this person had problems and was fighting the devil. This is what the net result was. The death certificate doesn't say addiction or overdose, it says something else."
Kulbacki is not sure how he can get grieving families on board to be more honest about the cause of death. Sometimes the death of a child who is addicted brings a sense a relief to the family because they know where their child is.
"There's that relief that they have tried to help their children. They're tried to do what they can and whether they're adults or adolescents, it's so readily available.
Funeral homes are on the front lines in the battle against addiction, according to Kulbacki, who met his wife while he was a member of an EMS squad.
"We know a lot of first responders so we know a lot of the stories that other people don't know. It's far worse than people would like to believe. It really is an epidemic. It's really a problem," Kulbacki said.
A study by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality found that emergency room treatment for cases involving opioid abuse increased by 99 percent between 2005 and 2014.
In an interview with New Jersey 101.5 last week, Dr. Michael Gerardi, emergency physician at Morristown Medical Center, said that ER physicians were among the first people to realize that opioid abuse was a growing problem.
“It’s emblazoned in our consciousness and our souls that we want to see this epidemic stopped," he said.
Peter Kulbacki's full message:
What am I supposed to say when we get a call from someone telling me that a loved one has passed from an overdose? I’m sorry? Please accept my condolences? Yeah, that’s what I say, but you know what? My visceral response when I hang up the phone is F**K you opioids.
Those who know me know I’m not prone to profanity, and as the consummate professional, I cannot say this to the parents, children, siblings, friends, and neighbors that we serve in the aftermath of opioid addiction. But I want to scream it out loud. F**K you heroin.
I write this as a son, spouse, parent, brother, grandfather, neighbor, friend, and funeral director.
Folks, we have a problem, a very real problem right here in our backyard, in every town. Every month we get overdose calls, and from personal experience I’m telling you it’s truly getting worse. Middlesex County is ranked one of the top 4 counties in New Jersey for opioid overdoses. I speak to local police officers who are issued 2 doses of Narcan at the beginning of their shifts, and have to come back to the station before their shift is over because they’ve already used the initial 2 doses. True story.
I am witness to the parents left with inexplicable grief. I am witness to the spouses left to carry the emotional and economic burden of raising a family alone. I am witness to the children who are left wondering, “why?”
I see the emotional devastation left behind. I am pained to hear these tragic stories. The failed stints in rehab. The relapses. The torn and wrecked families. I’m distressed to walk family and friends to a casket containing the broken dreams of a life lost. I’m tired of getting calls from people I personally know telling me their son or daughter was found somewhere having OD’d.
I know addiction is a disease. It doesn’t respect title, your station in life, your socioeconomic status, or anything else. Trust me…I’ve seen it all. F**K you opioids.
And, to the victim’s families who are brave enough to share their story in hopes that it will save just one life…
to the countless friends, neighbors, and programs that offer support to the families stricken by this disease both near and far….
to East Brunswick Police Department’s Police-Assisted Addiction Recovery Initiative (PAARI) that provides outreach to township residents who have had struggles with addiction….
to Immaculate Conception Church’s, “A Safe Place” Support Group that offers support to families dealing with the aftermath of opioid addiction….
we applaud you for your strength and courage, and hope it helps others deal with this terrible epidemic.
We have to stand and fight….as a community. We have to beat this horrible monster.
Get help for addition in New Jersey by calling 844-732-2465 or at ReachNJ.gov. For an immediate emergency dial 911.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.