Who Failed Richard Bragg II?
That’s the question being asked by the people who knew him and perhaps even more by those who didn’t, people like my friend and fellow advocate who has taken it upon herself to make sure that his body does not remain unclaimed. Kim, a total stranger who cared simply because he was another human being who deserved to “be claimed”, reminds us that, as in the Legend of the Starfish, “each one matters”. Her compassionate response to the death of this young man demonstrates how everyone has someone who cares about them. However, an opinion still held by some is that people who die from addiction are “those people” who have no one who loves and cares about them and that society will just be that much better off if they die. Not so. Thank you, Kim, for contradicting this stereotypical view and reminding us of our humanity.
In the process of making arrangements for a memorial, some tragic information has been revealed. Richard had a heroin addiction that, according to a friend, he longed to recover from so that he could be a father to his children. Like so many others, his disease resulted in multiple arrests and incarcerations. There were 15 that were found. That means there were at least 15 opportunities for him to get treatment for the disease that was killing him. Fifteen times there could have been an intervention to redirect the life of Richard Bragg, 15 times that he could have been offered hope for recovery and instead was given another opportunity to continue in his disease. Fifteen missed opportunities! If there remains any doubt about incarceration not being treatment and that we cannot incarcerate ourselves out of the problem, Richard Bragg is the tragic proof!
So, who failed Richard Bragg? Could it be a system that was never created or designed to treat a chronic, progressive, potentially fatal illness? Why was this system ever expected to treat addiction? Could it be because there has never been a standard of care for this chronic illness? Could the reason for that be our archenemy, 'Stigma' and the accomplice 'Discrimination'? Who can help rid society of these devastating and deadly detriments to recovery? All of us!
What have we learned from Richard’s death? I hope that his death sounds the alarm yet again of the importance of intervention on this disease for whomever, wherever and whenever possible. Why? Because each one does matter and it truly is a matter of life and death.
Thank you, Richard, for reminding us of the work that still needs to be done and for giving us the inspiration to continue doing it.