MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – Over the last five years, heroin has flooded the Twin Cities.
More and more young people are becoming addicted and overdosing.
Bobby Weishalla should have celebrated his 22nd birthday this year.
But after a deadly overdose, his mom, Janet, instead brought a birthday cake to his grave.
“He was fun loving, he loved life, he was smart,” Janet Weishalla said. “You always think it’s not going to happen to my kids, or our family, but it can always happen to anybody.”
As a nurse, Janet Weishalla will never understand how her son’s life crumbled before her.
“That was very hard for me for awhile,” she said, “because I thought, of all people, I should have seen it.”
Once a boy full of life who loved to fish, Bobby’s interests began to change.
“It was one of those things where kids start out slowly doing things,” his mother said. “In sixth grade he attempted to just try cigarettes.”
Gradually, Bobby began experimenting with marijuana and mushrooms, then to addictive pain killers, and eventually to something he promised he’d never try–heroin.
“Why he did, I don’t know, but it was kind of like, as soon as he did, that was it,” she said. “You’re hooked right away.”
Bobby began to spiral downhill. First losing his job, then stealing from his family.
“I had an iPod that was a gift from my aunt, and it meant a lot to me, and he knew that, but he needed money,” his mother said. “So he sold it, and that was when I really knew there was a problem. It was that last night of his life where he stole his brother’s gaming system.”
The night Bobby died, he had been in a voluntary treatment center for just four days, but his mom said he couldn’t take it anymore.
“He walked out,” she said. “He left against medical advice. They tried to find him. He was hiding in snow banks. He hitchhiked home, and he knew that if he didn’t go back, that he was going to have to go to jail. He always told me, ‘I’ll die before I go back to jail.'”
Janet Weishalla believes her son bought just enough heroin to overdose and never wake up.
“He planned his suicide, he knew what he was doing,” she said.
Bobby had tried to shake his heroin habit.
Over the years he went into treatment about eight times, but his mom says the programs were too short to make a difference.
“They even say at the three-week mark of being sober–that’s the minimum,” she said. “Most of these places–that’s when they’re letting them out.”
Ramsey County Attorney John Choi believes addicts need better treatment options.
“The reality is we need to invest in treatment programs like Minnesota Adult and Teen Challenge,” he said.
He sees too many heroin abusers who don’t have the resources to treat their addictions and end up in jail for crimes related to their habit.
He wants lawmakers to allocate more money to help abusers heal.
“We spend an enormous amount of money incarcerating people who have addiction issues, but if you can not spend any more money, and do it with the same resources, and make sure people don’t come back into the criminal justice system and hurt other people–we should do that,” he said.
Janet Weishalla believes her son would still be alive today if he had access to better care.
Her calendar still marks that terrible day.
Almost exactly two years later the pain of losing Bobby is still raw.
“I miss him more than anybody would know,” she said. “As a mom, you bring a child into the world. You love them, you get to know them, and when they’re not there all of a sudden, it’s hard.”
Right now the average length of stay for a treatment program is 30 days.
Some experts believe that’s not enough time to get clean.
Minnesota Adult and Teen Challenge offers a 13-month stay for those who have been unsuccessful with the shorter programs.
You can support that organization right now by making a donation.