Posted Tuesday, August 19, 2014 --- 7:32 p.m.
After losing his son to an accidental heroin overdose, a Madison dad is hoping to offer support for other loved ones experiencing a similar loss. He's started a group called ODDS, which stands for Overdose Death Support.
Today would have been Jason Swanson's 31st birthday. Instead of celebrating, Jason's dad is reminiscing his son's memory.
"He had a big smile, his big arms would hug you like mad," Swanson said.
Jason died at age 25.
"From what I knew, he wasn't using hard drugs at the time. But then he tried it again just this one time. And as the coroner said, with heroin you play Russian Roulette, and it just hit him at the wrong time and killed him," Swanson said.
Everyday Swanson misses Jason's big smile and big hugs. And he knows he's not the only one experiencing such a loss.
"I know other families feel the same way... they wonder how they're going to make it through the next day, though the next week and through the next year," he said.
That's why he's decided to start this support group for people who've been touched by an overdose death.
"There's grief counselors or clergy, but the best support is from another family or people who've gone through the same thing," he said.
Madison Police know the need for a group like this. Public Information Officer Joel DeSpain calls Madison's heroin problem a "public health crisis."
"Everyday I'm running reports about how heroin is impacting this community, sometimes it's in overdoses, sometimes its in thefts, sometimes it's in robberies," DeSpain said.
Swanson hopes this group will be what families need to overcome their loss.
"We're victims too, and I want to be able to help people become survivors instead of victims," Swanson said.
The first meeting is this Thursday at the Fitchburg Library at 7 p.m. Anyone who's had a loved one die from a drug overdose is welcome to attend.