A South Dakota news reader made the brave decision last week to report on her daughter’s death from a drug overdose.
Angela Kennecke’s daughter Emily Groth was just 21 years old when she died of fentanyl poisoning in May. Her death came as a shock to her family, who had had only just learned of her opioid use.
On Wednesday, the news anchor decided to share her daughter’s story as part of the KELO-TV evening bulletin, making a heartfelt plea to “abolish the stigma that prevents many from seeking help”.
The journalist, who has more than 10 years of experience reporting on the opioid crisis in the US, fought back tears as she delivered the report.
“The opioid epidemic has hit home in a tragic and devastating way for me personally,” she said.
“The loss of a child, especially in a sudden and shocking way, has turned my world upside down.
“I never intended a member of my family to become part of the statistics you hear on the evening news. Nobody does.”
Kennecke said she hoped her family’s “personal tragedy” could be a “catalyst for change” and help reduce the stigma surrounding opioid addiction.
In an article published on the news station’s website the same day she read the report, Kennecke described further the tragic details of her daughter’s death.
She said she and her husband had only just become concerned Emily was abusing opioids in the weeks before her death.
“Everything in my instincts told me something is seriously wrong here… the more time I spent around her before her death, the more alarm bells went off in my head,” she wrote.
Emily's parents decided to hire an interventionist to help them get her into treatment, but they made their plans too late.
"We met on a Saturday and the intervention was planned for the following Saturday, and my daughter died on a Wednesday. We didn't get that chance."
However, Kennecke said it was only after her daughter's death that she learned the true extent of Emily's addiction.
"It was unbelievable to me. The fact that my daughter would be using heroin and needles. My beautiful daughter who was very privileged; had every opportunity in life to have a great life, had gone down this road.
"It was shocking to me."
In a sad twist of fate, Kennecke had been working on a story reporting on parents who lost their children to drug overdoses when she got the call from her husband, who discovered Emily unresponsive. She died that day.
Following an outpouring of support in response to her report on Emily's story, Kennecke told KELO-TV she did what she felt she should.
"I wouldn't call it brave. I guess I just have the training in place to speak publicly. To go on the air, and so I feel it's a necessary thing," she said.
Kennecke and her family also launched a fund called "Emily's Hope", which will provide money towards the cost of drug addiction treatments at an addiction care centre when it opens in her South Dakota home of Sioux Falls next year.