Parents Want Overdose Notification

By: Zac Schultz
By: Zac Schultz

Madison: Sarah Stellner was the small town girl living it up in the big city when she died of an apparent heroin overdose April 26.

Police are still waiting for a toxicology screen to confirm the cause of death, but an MPD search warrant shows Sarah's roommate confessed to injecting her with heroin a few hours before her death.

Sarah's parents say they never knew about the 20 year olds drug problem, and they're frustrated that they weren't informed Sarah had been treated for an overdose six weeks earlier on March 5.

"Actually we didn't find out about it until the detectives told us about it after Sarah had passed away," says Cindy Stellner.

Cindy says the hospital should have called her after the first overdose. "I just think the hospital should notify parents when your kids are in an emergency situation, whether it's drug related or it's an accident, anything–no matter what age they are."

"They cannot be informed unless there is permission given by the patient," says Dr. Michael Miller of the Newstart Drug Treatment Program at Meriter Hospital.

Dr. Miller says federal law gives people seeking drug treatment stronger confidentiality. "They have complete control over their medical information and it cannot be shared with anyone without a signed consent."

Dr. Miller says the confidentially rules are so strict that even if a parents insurance is billed for the treatment they still can't get information about their adult child's addiction. "We really talk to them about the benefits of having the family for support, having communication be open, but there are times the person says, 'No. I'm firm about this. I just don't want you to talk to them.' And really our hands are tied."

Sarah Stellner's parents say they want both the people who supplied the heroin prosecuted for Sarah's death.

Police say the investigation is ongoing.

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