By Erica Thomas, managing editor
CLAY — Everyone has heard about how the opioid crisis is claiming the lives of thousands of Americans every year. In fact, the National Institute on Drug Abuse estimates more than 130 people die every day in the United States after overdosing on opioids. This staggering number demonstrates how many people the opioid crisis has touched. Families, friends, co-workers and acquaintances of these people have been indirectly impacted in a way that is difficult for some to comprehend. Until it happens to you.
Thomas P. Dooley, PhD., of Clay, has more experience in the field of opioids than he ever wanted. No, he has never put a needle in his arm. No, he has never been addicted. His son was a victim of the opioid crisis. Thomas Dooley died at the age of 24.
Thomas Dooley was the youngest of four siblings. He was smart and intuitive and always seemed to know when someone needed extra attention or a helping hand, according to his father. But at the age of 12, he started having problems with anxiety. Years of treatment did not save his young life. On Feb. 2, 2017, Dr. Dooley found his son dead, in the basement of their home. He had overdosed.
Since then, Dr. Dooley has dedicated much of his life to the healing of others. Through volunteering at Lovelady Center and allowing Christ to speak through him, the pastor and counselor has worked to change lives impacted by the opioid crisis.
“I don’t know of many parents that can go through what I went through and do that,” Dr. Dooley said. “There’s evidence of the strength of God that enabled me to go there.”
Dr. Dooley uses his personal story, his background in molecular biology and his experience as a pastor to make a difference. He even invented a drug combination to help treat anxiety without the use of opioids.
“I can either bury my head in the sand and say, ‘I want nothing to do with this,’ or I can jump all in,” he said.
You can hear Dr. Dooley’s story about his fight for his son’s life and his continued effort to help others at the Freedom from Addiction Coalition Breakfast on Tuesday, June 4, 2019. North Jefferson mayors are hosting the event at the Trussville Civic Center from 7 a.m. – 8 a.m.
Clay City Manager Ronnie Dixon said the mayors of northeast Jefferson County are expanding a program that has already been in existence in the southern part of the county for about two years.
“A happenstance meeting between Mayor Webster and Dr. Dooley created an opportunity and Mayor Charles Webster has taken advantage of that chance meeting,” Dixon said. “We like to say God put these two men in touch with each other.”
Dixon realizes people from all walks of life are impacted by the opioid crisis.
“My prayer is that with this kickoff meeting we will see the Freedom From Addiction Coalition’s footprint grow, our citizens recognize and be introduced to all of the services providers in our county,” said Dixon. “We want them to know they’re not alone and that the Mayors are in touch with their communities and are ready to offer any help possible to curb this terrible scourge on our country.”
The breakfast is free and open to the public.