COLORADO SPRINGS — Nationwide, overdose deaths hit record numbers in 2020.
The problem is not contained to any single year, and has spilled over into 2021 for one local family, still mourning the loss of their son and brother.
According to his family, TJ Scofield died three weeks before his 19th birthday. He was living on his own for the first time in a Colorado Springs apartment. "My brother died of a heroin overdose this year in February... My dad told me... he had no idea how to tell me. And, I was very shocked at first," said TJ's younger brother, Avery Scofield.
Avery said his brother had a fantastic sense of humor and a great taste in music. He said TJ always wanted to enroll in the Marine Corp, and was in the Young Marines program for many years of his life. "He didn't get to enroll in the Marine Corp," Avery told News5.
TJ shared his first name with his father, Truett. Truett said TJ lived in the same house as him until the last eight weeks of his life. "You know you love somebody when they inspire you to be a better person. And that is the definition of my experience with my son. Immediately, he made me a better person for having him in my life," said Truett.
Truett said the last time he saw his son, they were discussing planning his birthday. "For his 19th birthday, he was going to plan his first birthday party, and they were going to do it at his apartment. And he stopped here and we talked about his mom a little bit, we talked about work, and we talked about making him a birthday cake. He wanted me to make him a carrot cake, with cream cheese frosting. And I was like, I'd love to," said Truett.
Truett said the fact that his last interaction with his son was positive is invaluable. "If anybody could learn anything from my experience: be careful how you speak to the people in your life, because you never know. You know, I wouldn't have in my wildest of dreams imagined that when he walked out of here that night, that would be the last time I'd see him alive," said Truett.
Truett and Avery are sharing TJ's story hoping to shatter the stigma surrounding overdose deaths, and advance the conversation about harm reduction.
On a similar note, fentanyl related deaths have increased in El Paso County over the past few years as well. The El Paso County Coroner is tracking fentanyl, and year to date at the end of July there were 57 deaths, meaning it is very likely there will be more than 100 this year.
That is compared to 47 fentanyl related deaths total in 2020, and 21 total in 2019. The totals are more than doubling each year, which the coroner calls a terrible trajectory.