In Response To Obituary, Police Chief Writes Powerful Post About Opioid Crisis

In his response, the officer pointed out the wide-ranging impact of the opioid epidemic and called for reform.

Burlington police chief Brandon del Pozo has something to say about the obituary of Madelyn Ellen Linsenmeir, the young mother who lost her battle to opiate addiction earlier this month. After the moving obituary written by a family member went viral, del Pozo took to Facebook to post a sobering reflection on the tragedy and the one problem he had with the touching tribute.

In his lengthy post, del Pozo remembered Linsenmeir as a "beautiful" and "beloved" mother who struggled with addiction for nearly half her life. Following her death in early October, a "family member with a talent for expression wrote her the honest and moving obituary she truly deserved," he recalls. The obituary was published in a wide range of publications and shared countless times on social media.

But del Pozo says it shouldn't have taken this tragedy to get everyone's attention. "Why did it take a grieving relative with a good literary sense to get people to pay attention for a moment and shed a tear when nearly a quarter of a million people have already died in the same way as Maddie as this epidemic grew?" he wrote.

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As the officer points out, the opioid epidemic has already killed thousands and is affecting people of all incomes and backgrounds. "Did readers think this was the first time a beautiful, young, beloved mother from a pastoral state got addicted to Oxy and died from the descent it wrought?" the post reads. "And what about the rest of the victims, who weren't as beautiful and lived in downtrodden cities or the rust belt? They too had mothers who cried for them and blamed themselves."

The police chief goes on to highlight the dramatic difference in attention and media coverage when it comes to opiate-related deaths among people of color. "If Maddie was a black guy from the Bronx found dead in his bathroom of an overdose, it wouldn't matter if the guy's obituary writer had won the Booker Prize, there wouldn't be a weepy article in People about it," he wrote.

Del Pozo also states that he hopes the heightened attention around Linsenmeir's obituary will lead to actionable change among police, city leaders, and communities in fighting the opioid crisis. "The science is clear. We have medicines and protocols that work to effectively reduce the risks of death by overdose or other addiction-related causes. If you're ignoring or denying them, then I'll wonder if your tears for Maddie are crocodile tears," the post reads.

Among some of his suggested strategies: increasing access to medicine-assisted treatment, limiting arrests and prosecutions for misdemeanor possession of non-prescribed addiction treatment drugs, and requiring deputies to carry Naxolone, a medication designed to rapidly reverse opioid overdose.

"Maddie's gone. She can't feel your sorrow. But others are next," del Pozo wrote, also adding, "They are all human beings and they need our help. Go. Get to work."

Like Linsenmeir's obituary, del Pozo's words have gone viral. In addition to being shared thousands of times on social media, many have taken to Twitter to praise his blunt portrayal of addiction and the sweeping reforms needed to tackle it. Meanwhile, del Pozo himself told the Burlington Free Press he's been moved by the overwhelming reaction.

"It made me realize how important it was that my post be out there," he said.

Cover images via a katz / Shutterstock.com and  Shutterstock / Greg Browning.

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