Shelly Yankowsky knew her son Adam was in trouble when her fellow Maine State Police dispatcher told her to leave the room as a call for an overdose victim came in on Aug. 1.
“That was the first time Adam died,” Yankowsky said when telling the story of her 25-year-old son’s eventual death last summer.
“He went to the emergency room after they Narcaned him twice, and they just sent him home, without any information about what to do next or where to get help,” she continued. “My husband and I were a little blown away by that. We thought, ‘Holy, he died.’ When police go on domestic violence calls, they give information about resources to the victims.”
Yankowsky’s husband also works for the Maine State Police, as a detective.
On the morning of Aug. 7, Yankowsky found her son dead in the bedroom he’d grown up in at the family home in Glenburn. This time he could not be revived.
“When I went down the hall and opened his bedroom door, the first thing I saw was our two dogs sitting on the bed looking down at Adam,” she said. “He was sitting on the floor. It was like he was folded in half at his waist. So, his head was completely by his feet. He had a cigarette and a lighter in his hands like he was going to go out for a smoke.”
The impact of those deaths ripples, out beyond immediate family to friends, treatment providers, employers, schools, first responders and the legal community. The crisis reaches so far that those who respond to it on a professional level, such as Shelly Yankowsky and her husband, now must also face it in their own homes.
Yankowsky, who said her son died after snorting heroin laced with fentanyl, and others whose lives have been impacted by the opioid crisis are coming together in hopes of taking a step toward healing. In what appears to be the first event of its kind in Maine, they will gather for an interfaith healing service for communities impacted by substance abuse at 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday at St. John Catholic Church, 207 York St. in Bangor.