‘There Needs to Be Compassion and Care:' Mother Who Lost Son to Opioid Addiction Grieves in St. Mary's County

Dealers to Receive Indictments on Manslaughter and Murder Charges

Bryant Lawson seemed to have recovered. He joined the Navy. For a while, his mother said, life seemed all better.

It only took one injury to send Lawson spiraling back down into his six-year battle with opioid addiction. He was prescribed pain medicine for an injury, and later, he was found dead with a loaded syringe lying on the sink next to him.

Now his mother, Donna French, is left with memories, both of her son and the ruthless addiction that took him away from her.

It’s been one year since Lawson’s death. French said his dealer was never arrested.

That's a common outcome in the growing epidemic of opioid abuse and overdose that had President Donald Trump talking Tuesday. In a briefing, he vowed to "protect innocent citizens from drug dealers that poison our communities,” but he did not declare a state of emergency or announce any policy moves.

Wednesday, the St. Mary’s Sheriff’s Office and State’s Attorney is taking its own stand. Officials will announce indictments on murder and manslaughter charges against drug dealers they said caused the death of six people.

Lawson's dealer is not expected to be one of them.

Overwhelming Epidemic 

Already this year, the amount of heroin and opioid related deaths in St. Mary’s County in 2017 surpasses the total number of of overdoses in all of 2016. As of June, there had been 14 reported heroin- and opioid-related deaths this year. In 2016 the county saw nine deaths.

Before he fell back into his addiction, Lawson received treatment at Walden Behavioral Center in Lexington Park. The center treats alcohol and drug addictions.

Dr. Kathleen O’Brien has worked at the center for more than 40 years and has seen the evolution of the types of addiction being treated.

“The majority of our treatment in the last five years has started to become opioid-related,” O’Brien said. 

State of Emergency Urged

O'Brien said opioid treatments have received little funding in past decades. 

"Now, here, we find ourselves in this crisis," O'Brien said. "And we need to deal with it as we deal with other health crises." 

Trump’s opioid commission urged the president to declare a national state of emergency on opioids last week.

French remembers the smallest details of losing her son, down to the very last time he said, “I love you.” 

She advocates for education and change in hopes that viewer people will suffer a loss like hers.

"There needs to be compassion and care," French said."We think everyday what a gift he was and how his death is going to help someone somewhere and sometime so that they live." 

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