Opioid crisis hits home

By STEVI BRESHEARS, Staff Reporter ¦

Prescription drug overdoses claimed the lives of more than 72,000 Americans last year, according to “The Washington Post.” This represents a 9.5 percent increase from 2016. Synthetic opiates, such as fentanyl, were responsible for 29,418 of those deaths, a statistic that includes Amarillo College student Kody Hodge. The 20-year-old died in December 2017 after using the prescription drug recreationally.

“We all knew by the time we got to the funeral what had done it,” Ray Newburg, theater arts program coordinator, said. “Having to hear his grandfather tell it at the service that this was his first time trying fentanyl, I was just flabbergasted.”

Hodge was involved with AC’s theater program, and had talked with Newburg about what he needed to do to become a major. He performed in the Delta Psi Omega summer production of “Stupid F****** Bird,” as well as “Silent Sky,” for which he received recognition from the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival.

“I had just auditioned for “Fool for Love,” and I had cast and was going to use him again. I just hadn’t posted it yet. I was going to sit on it over the weekend, and then I remember getting the call in the parking lot of the movie theater,” Newburg said.

Newburg said that Hodge had asked him to use him in a “small part,” so he could focus on his Irene Ryan nomination for “Silent Sky.”

The Irene Ryan Foundation awards two national and 16 regional scholarships annually. One nominee and partner are invited to attend a national festival, where the nominee will receive a $500 scholarship. A runner-up is also selected to receive a scholarship, but not attend the festival.

“The judges loved him,” L’Hannah Pedigo, concert hall theater shop foreman, said. Newburg added that it was one of his scenes, not even the lead of the show judges wanted to see when considering the play.

“He had a very magnetic presence on stage,” Newburg said. “He had a little bit of that x-factor that you can’t really define.”

“In an effort to help other students follow the path Hodge was so passionate about, a scholarship foundation has been established in his name. The Kody Hodge Foundation will give a graduating senior who plans on studying theater at AC a $2,000 scholarship. For more information about the foundation, visit kodyhodge.org.

Newburg said that Hodge was not the first student to fall victim to something like this. Opioid abuse is a growing problem across the globe, and President Donald Trump has declared that the opioid addiction sweeping the country is a national emergency.

The theater staff also urged students to keep up with their friends.

Even if it ends your friendship because they’re so angry at you for doing that,” Pedigo said. “It’s worth you not being friends anymore to get somebody help.”

“He was, from what I knew, a good guy. A good guy that made a choice, an unfortunate choice,” Newburg said.

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