Opioids are highly addictive painkillers that can be prescribed for chronic pain or bought illegally from the streets of any town.
James Moore has been the owner of Moore’s Bicycle Shop for 35 years. After hearing that five overdoses occurred in the Hattiesburg area from a friend who works for the Mississippi Bureau of Narcotics, Moore began advertising on social media that his shop will offer Narcan at no cost.
The opioid crisis is a personal one for Moore, who found his son Jeffrey Moore dead in his apartment after overdosing on heroin at age 24 in April 2015.
Jeffrey had been evicted from a tobacco-free facility for being caught smoking a tobacco cigarette three times. Moore picked up Jeffrey from the facility with no knowledge of how to prevent his son from overdosing.
“When I picked him up, no one sat down with me and said, ‘Your son is at a very high risk of overdose if he uses because has no tolerance after being clean for 60 days. There’s a medication you can get it at CVS, and have it on hand should he overdose,’” Moore said.
“If someone had had that conversation with me as a parent, I would have been much more vigilant on April 6, 2015, when he didn’t answer my phone call.”
Naloxone, sold as a brand as Narcan, is a nasal spray that can be used to save someone from overdosing on opioids if rescue breaths fail.
Although Narcan can be bought from CVS, the cost of narcan can be close to $100 without insurance, according to CVS Health.
Moore is able to offer Narcan for free because of a federal grant. Anyone who has an addiction works in an environment where they might encounter someone with an addiction or lives with an addict and wants to be prepared can receive a dose of Narcan after watching a 7-minute training video.
Right before patrons walk into the training room, they see a purple wall filled with pictures of Jeffrey from childhood up until adulthood on their right.
In the dozens of photos, Jeffrey smiles as he fishes, works on bikes, plays with his schnauzers Ziggy and Teddy and poses for graduation photos with his dad and sister Jenny, store manager of Moore’s Bicycle Shop.
Moore said Jeffrey loved working at the family business.
“[He was] intelligent with a good sense of humor. He had one of those rare abilities to really instantly connect with anyone who walked in the door of the bicycle shop. We might have a customer who comes in who’s making a couple of hundred thousand dollars a year driving a $60,000 car that wants to buy a $5,000 bike, and Jeff right away could strike up a conversation and be understanding with that individual,” Moore said.
“The next day, we might have someone waiting on a sidewalk waiting for us to open that’s got a broken bike that has a flat, and they just need for us to get it fixed, so they can get to their job at Burger King. He could easily connect with that individual as well.”
Moore said those personality traits can be found in most people who suffer from addiction.
“The disease does not define who they are. It’s just something they have acquired,” he said.
After Moore found Jeffrey unconscious in his room, and Jeffrey died shortly after, Moore began reading books on addiction to better understand the disease and doing advocacy work in his free time.
It all began with a simple idea for a billboard.
“I wanted to bring this conversation to the community, and I was driving around in my truck,” Moore said. “I noticed there’s a picture I keep of Jeff and myself that he took. It was a selfie he took just before he died in the Georgia mountains.”
“And I said to myself, ‘I wish I could just put this up on a billboard to start a discussion, so that people could better understand that [addiction] is not a moral failing or a weakness or a character flaw,” Moore said.
That same day, Moore went to Lamar Outdoor Advertising to inquire about the cost of the billboard and found out he would only have to pay for printing. The company agreed to display the billboard for every time there was an unsold space.
The billboard featured the selfie of Moore and Jeffrey with the message, “ADDICTION is a DISEASE. Not a moral failing…SEEK HELP.”
Moore said many good things began happening after the billboards came up. Recovery centers in Hattiesburg began getting referrals because of the billboards.
Moore also enjoys speaking in Hattiesburg recovery centers, Clearview Recovery Centers and Pine Grove Behavioral Health & Addiction Services.
“It’s helpful to speak directly to those seeking recovery as well because they understand now that someone finally understands a little bit about what they’re going through—not because of any wisdom I have, but because I’ve read so many books written by people who were heroin addicts or who were addicted to something else and found recovery,” Moore said.
He also allowed for Oxford House, a nonprofit organization that works across the nation that allows those seeking recovery to live amongst those doing the same, to rent a house his son lived in.
Three hundred fifty-four Mississippians died in 2017 due to drug overdoses compared to West Virginia, the state with the highest number at 974, according to the CDC.
Stand Up Mississippi, an organization working to end the opioid crisis, says that more than 80 percent of people who became addicted to heroin began with prescription medication.
One hundred eighty-three prescriptions for opioids were given per every 100 people in Forrest County in 2017, according to CDC data.
Governor of Mississippi Phil Bryant created the Opioid and Heroin Study Task Force in December 2016. During town hall meetings, Moore can be found telling Jeffrey’s story at town hall meetings alongside the Force.
“[If Jeffrey were alive], I’d like to think he’d be using his [electrical technology certificate] at Jones. I’d like to think that perhaps he’d be opening his own business. I’d like to think that he would be moving closer to fatherhood,” Moore said.
Moore can be contacted for speaking engagements at email@example.com or by phone at 601-549-2392.