Gone Too Soon: Father Of Three Dies From Heroin-Fentanyl Overdose
Austin Overfors Was 24 Years Old
DULUTH, Minn. – The numbers are alarming. More than 40,000 Americans die each year from opioid overdoses, and of that number roughly half of the deaths involved fentanyl, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Experts say fentanyl is up to 50 times more powerful than heroin, and these days heroin is being laced with fentanyl — resulting in a record number of deaths across the country.
One of those deaths is right here in Duluth that happened last month to Austin Overfors, 24, a young father of three.
It’s a story through the eyes of his fiancé and mother — all with the hope of helping other addicts before it’s one hit too late, as FOX 21’s Dan Hanger reports.
According to Austin’s mother, Jodie Blegan, the toxicology report concluded Austin died April 22, 2018 after overdosing on heroin laced with fentanyl.
“No mother wants that phone call,” Jodie said.
“Sadness is my first. And I’m mad, I’m so mad” said Myrissa Laitinen, Austin’s fiancé and mother to their three young children.
“I feel robbed of a future with the man that I love. And for my kids, I feel like their robbed of a future with their dad — and all over just a drug,” Myrissa said.
Heroin is very personal to Myrissa because she’s a recovering addict who found the man of her dreams while using – a man she credits for being alive today.
“I owe him, I owe him my life. I do, I’m so thankful. I mean, I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for him. I would be dead or in prison,” Myrissa said.
Myrissa would give it her all in return to try to help Austin get clean.
“We told each other we loved each other day one, and he said we are going to have a family and we’re going to be sober.”
But Austin’s way of handling pain was different.
“If something bad were to happen, he didn’t really have a good coping mechanism. He didn’t want to be that person that said I’m struggling because he wanted to be that strong person,” Myrissa explained.
Austin is remembered as intelligent, funny and loving.
“He would walk in and light up a room. I mean, he just had this great big huge smile and personality,” Jodie said.
And his love of art flowed on paper and on skin.
“Always creating something, drawing, singing to the kids,” Myrissa said.
So how could a young man with so much love around him get so involved with heroin that would ultimately take his life?
“I know Austin never wanted to be involved in this but I don’t think he realized at 16 years old just how deadly what he was getting into was, and by the time he realized, it was too late, he was addicted,” Jodie said.
Jodie says Austin’s experimenting as a teenager started with smoking a highly addictive prescription painkiller known as Opana.
“I started talking to the other kids about it. I’m like what is this, what is going on with this stuff. And I remember one kid telling me that he was so addicted to it that he would rather die than not have it. And to hear a 17, 18-year-old kid say that to you, it was just a stark reality that we had a really, really big issue on our hands here,” Jodie said.
That issue would eventually lead to heroin and a nightmare for Jodie and her family with Austin in and out of jail doing anything to keep feeding the addiction.
“It’s literally like watching your child drown and there’s literally nothing you can do to save them,” Jodie said.
Other than a mother calling the police on her own child when she suspected he was using again.
“I remember having a conversation with him recently actually and I told him Austin I love you more than anything and to be honest with you, I’d rather see you spend the rest of your life in prison than have you dead,” Jodie said.
Today, Jodie is there for Myrissa and Austin’s three kids and plans to continue to share her son’s story in any way she can in hopes of helping other addicts avoid a life cut too short.
“For Austin, I don’t [know how] else to cope, and I just felt a strong, like, oh my gosh, my baby is gone and I have been trying to save his life and advocating for him and trying to help him that now that I can’t help him, I want to help others for him because I know he didn’t mean it and I know that he would want me to do this. I really feel like he would,” Jodie said.
“He didn’t want that life. Nobody wants that life because the only three outcomes that happen when you’re in that life — you are going to get clean and sober and you will end up being a voice just like me, or you’ll end up in prison, or you’re going to end up dead.” Myrissa said.
Jodie says she’s planning to speak to Minnesota Teen Challenge and possibly put on a motorcycle run to raise money to help people fighting addiction.
Meanwhile, a GoFundMe account has been set up for Myrissa who is out of a job and now a single mother of Austin’s three kids.
If you or someone you know is fighting addiction, Narcotics Anonymous Minnesota can help.