Heroin death leads sisters to fight for change

Two Milford students who lost their sister to a heroin overdose in 2001 are leading fundraising efforts to help make sure other families don’t have to suffer the same kind of loss.
Hope and Lia Burrows were young when their sister, Jessica, died of a heroin overdose, and now they are spearheading a Foran High School lacrosse team fundraiser aimed at preventing substance abuse.

The varsity and junior varsity girls’ lacrosse teams will be collecting money at school during the week of May 2, and they will be collecting money at their games May 5.

“I was 11 and didn’t take substance abuse seriously, until it impacted my family,” Hope Burrows said in a press release issued by the Milford Prevention Council. “I want to raise awareness and educate the community that heroin does not discriminate and to remove the stigma.”

She said her sister, a 2004 graduate of Foran High School, was smart, young, a cheerleader. Addiction is a problem in Milford and, “We want to prevent another family from losing a loved one,” Hope said.

This isn’t the first time her family has spoken out about the need to address drug addiction. Hope and Mia, along with their mother, Kim Burrows, took part in a 2014 walk organized by the group REACH Out, a group whose aim is to raise awareness of issues such as suicide, drug addiction and depression. There, Kim Burrows talked about the daughter she lost and the addiction that took her.

“There is a problem and it’s affecting every walk of life,” Kim said during the walk, noting that her daughter Jessica looked more like the typical college student than someone with a heroin addiction. Kim said it isn’t clear when the problem started but that it escalated after a car accident during college, when Jessica was prescribed pain medications.

“She made a bad choice one day and she couldn’t stop,” Kim said. “There’s a picture we paint of an addict, and that’s wrong. It could be your next door neighbor. It’s hurting everyone, and I don’t want it happening again.”

Heroin didn’t define Jessica, even though it took her life. “That’s not who she was,” Kim said during the 2014 walk. “She was so much more, but she had a problem.”

Julia Astram, captain of the Foran High School varsity girls lacrosse team, said the team is happy to help raise awareness about a serious social matter and to help support the Milford Prevention Council.

“We as a team are very supportive of Hope and Lia as well as the community as a whole,” Julia said. “We want to bring the community together and create awareness.”

Wendy Gibbons, program director of the Milford Prevention Council, said the impact of heroin use is felt all across the United States, with heroin being identified as the most or one of the most important drug abuse issues affecting several local regions from coast to coast.

“We need to talk and educate so we can prevent substance abuse among our youth,” she said.

The lacrosse teams will be collecting donations at their game against Shelton on May 5, at Foran, when JV plays at 4:30 and varsity plays at 6 p.m. There is a $5 admission fee for the varsity game.