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Daughter’s overdose death spurs mom to raise awareness

Personal letter to the White House on opioid epidemic gets answer

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In some ways, Amy Sloop-Morris doesn’t want to erase the pain—that might erase the sweet memories of Taylor, as well.

But she does want to do everything in her power to ensure the same thing doesn’t happen to someone else, to someone else’s child, ever again. And her efforts haven’t gone unnoticed. Sloop-Morris—along with hundreds of other parents who sent personal letters to the White House—received a note from President Donald Trump addressing not only their loss but also a commitment to finding solutions to the opioid crisis sweeping the country.

“There are so many of us now that are working hard to bring attention to this and to teach people that they can do something, make that phone call, do something to help these people,” Sloop-Morris said. “I wish that I had known more what I know now while Taylor was going through this.”

Sloop-Morris’ 19-year-old daughter, Taylor, died of a fentanyl overdose Nov. 25, 2017, at a known drug hotel in Kannapolis. The loss not only tore her life apart but opened her eyes to the opioid epidemic locally and across the country.

Taylor’s story

Sloop-Morris and her husband at the time adopted Taylor when she was born, and the girl grew up not only knowing that fact but with a relationship with both of her birth parents. But Sloop-Morris said that feelings of abandonment still lingered and only got worse when her birth father died in 2015.

On top of that, Sloop-Morris and Taylor’s adopted father wound up divorced, and a serious boyfriend broke up with her, saying he could no longer handle her drug use.

“There were a lot of things that I think mentally that she had grief and heartache over,” Sloop-Morris said. “She turned to drugs. She started experimenting with things. In high school, we had a battle with what was called Triple C. It’s where they take large amounts of cold and cough medicine to get high.”

Soon Taylor moved on to marijuana and synthetic marijuana. She went through patterns of getting clean off one drug then falling into something harder. Eventually, she found heroin; her sister—also adopted—held her down and shot her with the drug.

“That’s how she got started,” Sloop-Morris said. “She said, ‘Mom, it’s like you get it one time, and then you just crave it. You just crave it every day.”

Taylor did manage to get clean in 2017 and moved in with her mom and step-father. Sloop-Morris said at first, her daughter would join them for dinner every night and oftentimes stay to watch a movie with them and fall asleep on the couch.

A few weeks before her death, however, Taylor stopped lingering after the meal. Sloop-Morris said she didn’t think much of it at the time because her daughter had just adopted a kitten, and she assumed the girl was spending time at home. In retrospect, however, Sloop-Morris said she suspects Taylor was sneaking out to do drugs.

The day she died—the day before her 20th birthday—Taylor asked her mom for $20 to go to the mall with a friend. She left about noon, and sent her mom a text saying she loved her. Normally, Sloop-Morris said she would have checked on her daughter in the evening, but since she was out for her birthday, she fell asleep and didn’t read into radio silence when she texted at 10:30 p.m. to ask if Taylor was home.

But when the knock came at the door at 3 a.m., Sloop-Morris knew. She said her first thought was she hadn’t heard from Taylor.

“By the time I got to the kitchen, I saw the blue lights,” she said. “I just knew, and at that point I fell apart because I knew.”

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Officers informed Sloop-Morris and her husband that Taylor had died of a drug overdose at about 9:30 p.m. that evening.

A little more digging

Sloop-Morris called her son, Taylor’s older brother, to break the news, and he went down to the hotel the next day to watch the security tape. Sloop-Morris said the video showed Taylor had arrived at about 7:30 p.m. with another young man. The couple checked, paying $20 to use the room.

At about 9:30 p.m., the man came out of the room and went down the hall to room 27 to talk with another couple; Sloop-Morris said it looked as though he was getting directions. He then drove off in his car and didn’t come back.

The woman from room 27 eventually seemed to get suspicious, Sloop-Morris said, since the man hadn’t returned. She walked down the hall to Taylor’s room, opened the door and can be seen on the video handling something on the floor. Sloop-Morris said that, according to a police report, that’s when the woman declared Taylor unresponsive.

The woman went back to her room and called the hotel owner who, according to the report, told her to wait for her $20.

“So nothing is done,” Sloop-Morris said.

At about 12:30 a.m., the owner of the hotel walked to Taylor’s room, and the 911 call came in about 12:45 a.m.—three hours after they first found the girl unresponsive. A police officer told Sloop-Morris that had the people at the hotel called within an hour of when they found her, he could have given her NARCAN, the drug that reverses an opioid overdose, and Taylor might be alive.

“It’s sad that I lost my daughter, but it’s even sadder that there could’ve been a different outcome,” Sloop-Morris said. “We’ve got the laws in place right now where people can make these phone calls. That drug dealer could’ve made that call and left, and they would’ve never done anything to him. That woman in room 27 and her boyfriend or whatever he was could’ve called 911, and they would never have done anything to them.

“That’s the sad part. But the other part is I have learned that there are so many other fathers and mothers out there like me with almost identical stories, and every day now I find someone new who has lost their child.”

Finding advocacy

Though still reeling from the loss of her daughter, Sloop-Morris decided to fight the grief in the only way she knows how—speaking out. She started a Facebook group called Justice for Taylor to share not what she is going through at the time but also different things going on in the battle against the opioid crisis.

She also joined thousands of other parents who wrote personal letters to President Donald Trump about their loved ones who have died from opioid overdose.

“I felt that there was so much of this going on, and we really were not addressing this problem,” she said. “So many moms and dads are losing their children. Children are losing their parents. It’s just sad the enormity.”

Someone at the White House heard the parents’ call. At the beginning of June, Sloop-Morris received a response letter personally signed by Trump that even mentioned Taylor by name.

“I never expected to hear back; I’m sure none of these other parents did,” she said. “We all hope that this is going to make a difference, that he’s really going to take this as part of his agenda and take some steps to get help for these people. I know everybody’s overwhelmed because there’s so much of it, but somehow we have to get these people help.”

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