MORGANTOWN, W.Va. (WBOY) – U.S. Senator Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) spoke on the Senate floor on Feb. 14, opposing the new FDA director. In that speech, he talked about a girl from Morgantown, who struggled with addiction.
July 9, 2020, is a day that Michael Cole will never forget.
“I called her all Thursday morning, and I didn’t receive an answer, and I sent her text messages. Then, mid-afternoon, I left work to go look for her, and I found her,” said Cole.
Michael found his daughter Lauren Cole, a 26-year-old, a WVU graduate and cheerleader, a social worker, and a recovering addict for 10 years, dead in her car from fentanyl poisoning after needing to isolate herself from a COVID-19 close contact.
“No, I didn’t realize she relapsed,” said Cole, when asked if he had any idea that his daughter had relapsed.
Michael said her relapse was likely caused by not being able to take part in her normal schedule: first the gym, then to work, then back to the gym.
But three weeks before her death, Lauren knew she wanted to help.
“She said, ‘Dad, so many people are suffering from addiction and need help and don’t have the family or resources. Do you think, one day, whenever you retire, you and I can do something about it?’,” said Cole.
After her death, that’s exactly what Michael did.
Michael started Lauren’s Wish, a non-profit organization that fulfills her wish to help people struggling with addiction. All six members of the Board of Directors have had an effect from addiction in some way.
Now, the non-profit is renting space at Hazel’s House of Hope, located at the old Ramada Inn on Scott Ave. in Morgantown, to bring her dream to life.
“So, what we decided was to form Lauren’s Wish Addiction Triage Center, where we would try to be a stop-gap or a hand-off where there’s another step for that individual to go from the cycle of the emergency room and the overdose, to a facility,” said Ed Boyle, a member of the Board of Directors.
According to Dr. Kevin Blankenship, who serves on the Board of Directors for Lauren’s Wish, the cycle happens very often in those struggling with addiction.
“You have a very, very small window of time during which you can make a difference for them. If you can’t get them a bed immediately, many times, they’ll go back to where they were, and use again, and possibly overdose and die,” said Dr. Blankenship.
Overdosing is on the rise in West Virginia and around the US. According to data from the CDC, 870 people died over an overdose in West Virginia.
Michael said the increase of fentanyl-laced narcotics, like what Lauren took, is to blame for the increase in deaths.
The facility is meant to be used as a bridge between wanting help and being able to secure help in a short- or long-term facility to start the recovery process. It will have 28 beds, 24/7 staff, laundry services, food service and therapists to help start the recovery journey, as well as find out what services the individual would like.
“If we can keep another family or another individual from experiencing this, then it makes it all worthwhile. Every ounce of time, money, and effort you put into it makes it, just justifies the whole being,” said Cole.
Michael is hoping to open the facility in late March and will open sooner if time permits.
He’s also hoping to keep his daughter proud.
“When I go see Lauren again, I want her to say ‘good job’,” said Michael.
According to Michael, none of the services they offer will be billable to insurance–meaning the non-profit will operate solely on donations.
If you would like to donate to Lauren’s Wish, you can visit the donate page on their website here. You can also email firstname.lastname@example.org.
To learn more about Lauren’s Wish, you can go to its website here.