Mark Price ’76 has felt the sweeping devastation of the opioid epidemic. In 2017, it claimed the life of his 34-year-old son, Joe.
It was a time of deep grief for Price, both as a father and as a Cuyahoga County, Ohio resident who had been working for several years to help others struggling with opioids—both through his day job and as a drug task force volunteer.
“You never think it’s going to be your son,” Price says. “One of the key things I learned with Joe was that you can never be a counselor to your own child. The most you can be is a father.”
Out of his grief emerged an even stronger desire to help other people dealing with opioids, as well as their families. Drawing on the ache of his family’s loss as well as his own counseling knowledge, Price resolved to do everything in his power to help others.
“We’re at war,” Price says. “It came to a point where I said, ‘I’ve got to do more.’”
Price works as an LCDC III (Licensed Chemical Dependency Counselor III) Therapist, where he meets with clients dealing with drug and alcohol issues through an intensive outpatient program. In addition, he serves as a volunteer with the Cuyahoga County Opiate Task Force, which, thanks to the work of county health officials, lawyers, doctors, judges, and volunteers, plays a significant role in educating the community. Price regularly attends meetings to get the latest news on the drug epidemic, from the updated number of deaths to new treatment ideas.
Price also volunteers with a Quick Response Team (QRT)—started by local police—which meets with people who have overdosed and required medical treatment by first responders. They discuss options with them, and if they choose to pursue treatment, all charges, if any, are dropped. This effort in particular, he says, has saved countless lives.
And in situations where lives are lost, Price steps into a different role.
“I have a deep passion for talking to the family members remaining when there are deaths,” he says. “My wife and I have a lot of experience with that from losing our son. There isn’t anyone we wouldn’t reach out to if we know they’re in that situation.”
When he talks with families who are hurting, Price stresses the importance of grief and trauma counseling.
“There’s a lot of trauma when an overdose occurs,” he says. “People don’t even have an idea of how to grieve or how to respond.”
His own experience with grief counseling and faith-based grief groups has been instrumental to his healing, and it’s something he’s now brought to all of his lines of work, recognizing that grief is a factor that is often overlooked in the treatment process.
Meeting new people who are suffering and seeing how they respond to outreach has moved Price to continue working on his heartfelt mission.
“I see God’s work every day in what we do, especially in those who surrender and get better,” Price says. “I would have retired by now if it wasn’t for these clients. God is at work in all this. We are just observers.”
Price also sees God’s work in his family, which includes his youngest grandson Joey, Joe’s son. He and his wife have been his legal guardians for Joey, now four, since he was nearly four months old.
“There are times we could be napping or resting, but we’re playing hide-and-seek or throwing the ball around or building his latest cardboard castle,” Price says. “It’s been nothing short of a blessing to have him in our lives.” And in spite of the heartbreak, he continues to feel assured of God’s presence in his home life and work.
Now, between his day job, volunteering, and taking care of a four-year-old at home, Price’s days are certainly filled. Yet, knowing that there are more lives that need healing, he does not see himself stopping anytime soon. He wants to continue bringing hope to those who are hurting.
“If any sort of message goes out,” Price says, “It’s that you’re not alone. You are not alone.
“If you were standing in front of God right now, He would have one question for you: ‘Do you have any idea how much I love you?’”