By Jay Meisel
MARTIN COUNTY - When Donielle Bonnie died of a drug overdose at age 25 a decade ago, she didn't fit the picture that many have of drug addicts, her mother said last week.
She was a young woman celebrating life, as opposed to perception of a drug addict being someone living on the streets, committing crimes and facing a downward spiral, said Rose Bonnie-Bosley, her mother.
"She was a very gifted young woman," Ms. Bonnie-Bosley said.
For years after her daughter's death, she fought to prevent other young people from sharing the same fate.
But much of her efforts were focused in Palm Beach County because Martin County did not have a chapter of the Narcotics Overdose Prevention and Education program.
When the program started last week in Martin County, Ms. Bonnie-Bosley became one of the first volunteers.
The need for such a program, that teaches young people abusing drugs puts them at risk for an early death, is just as great as it was when her daughter died on Sept. 25, 2001, following her 25th birthday party, she said.
"We have lost many children since my daughter died," she said, talking about the community as a whole.
The program was launched in Martin County after Nancy Kline, superintendent of schools and Ed Ciampi, a Martin County commissioner, made a presentation about it, said Darcy Flieri, director of prevention services for Tykes and Teens, a Palm City nonprofit organization that works with families and children to deal with such issues as about and domestic violence.
The Martin County Sheriff's Office also is involved, she said.
Ms. Flieri said statistics show the need for such a program in Martin County.
Surveys show that almost 12 percent of youth abuse prescription drugs as compared to almost 10 percent statewide, she said.
"We have a prescription drug abuse epidemic in this country," and the epicenter is in Florida, she said.
To help combat the problem, program participants make presentations at schools, including the stories of other young people who died because of prescription drug abuse, she said.
The program also teaches young people to seek help if a friend using drugs passes out because in many cases those who die from an overdose do so in their sleep.
That's what happened to Ms. Bonnie, her mother recalled. She attended a birthday party and then took some pills after dancing and overdoing it, her mother said.
While many people see drug addicts as "derelicts living in the street, that was not my daughter," she said.
Her daughter had graduated nursing school, was physically active in sports and planned to become married two months after her birthday, Ms. Bonnie-Bosley said.
Her daughter's drug problems started in 2000 when she hurt her back and went to a pain clinic, she said.
The pain clinic prescribed several drugs for her and continued to do so, apparently without being concerned a problem might exist since her daughter still needed the drugs a year later, she said.
Ms. Bonnie-Bosley said sharing the stories of her daughter and others give young people information about the consequences of abusing drugs.
"Kids are kids and they don't think something is going to happen," she said.
She said when she attends presentations oftentimes young people in the audience at the outset are laughing and not taking it seriously.
"I see by the end of the presentation there isn't a dry eye in the gym," she said.
Those organizing the program are hoping other parents such as Ms. Bonnie-Bosley will come forward and share their stories.
To volunteer or learn more about the program, call Stacey Losardo, coordinator, at (772) 220-3439 or email Stacey@tykesandteens.org.