EGG HARBOR TOWNSHIP — Last Easter morning, Bill and Tammy Schmincke found their son Steven, who had struggled with opiate addiction for the past four years, unresponsive in their home. He was to have attended an Easter egg hunt with his two daughters, who Bill and Tammy had been raising, but no one would be going hunting that day.

Not long after Steven's death, Bill and Tammy began going door to door, to local legislators like state Sen. Jim Whelan and Assemblyman Vince Mazzeo, as well as law enforcement outlets like the Atlantic County Prosecutor's Office, not wanting their son's story to be swept under the rug.

"We vowed not to let Steven's death be in vain in the name of heroin, so we decided to start the organization," Bill Schmincke said.

That organization, which just sponsored a Recovery Celebration Walk on the Atlantic City boardwalk last weekend, became known as Stop the Heroin.

The group is recognizable for the red T-shirts it sells, emblazoned with stop signs. Money raised from the sale of those shirts has funded more than 50 scholarships for recovering addicts' first month in sober living housing.

"We're here to try to break the cycle of addiction. We're trying to (help) the people that have no place else to go, or the people that are normally going to go back to the people, places, and things" that led them to destructive behaviors, Bill Schmincke said.

He said he and his wife tried several approaches to get Steven the help he desperately needed, but pointed out that unless an addict makes a choice to be saved, there is often little anyone else can do. For Bill, the focus of Stop the Heroin is steering addicts away from the dual, doomed options of jail and death, and onto a clear path toward recovery.

"People that are in opiate addiction are not themselves. This drug wraps around your entire life and turns you into somebody that you're not."

For more information or to get involved, visit stoptheheroin.org.

 

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