In Suburban Dallas, Loosening "Cheese" Heroin's Deadly Grip

Another round of deaths have another round of North Texas parents trying to wipe out a deadly combination of heroin and cold medicine.

Eventually, Reid's mother had to drive to Atlanta after he overdosed in his car while sitting at a stoplight. They stayed in a hotel room and searched desperately for another rehab facility that he hadn't already tried. "My mom slept with her keys in a pillow with a bell on them," he says, so that he wouldn't be able to steal her car. He's laughing, but Kathy's taking notes. "That's a great idea," she says. The next day, it shows up on WTF's Facebook page as a tip for parents.

It's getting late now. The girls fidget in their chairs and text. The boys sink lower and lower into the couch. "Is there anything we can do for you?" Kathy asks the mother of the 16-year-old.

"I think he's too old for adoption," the mother responds. She's not smiling.

Kathy O'Keefe, whose son Brett died at age 18 from a heroin overdose. "This is an old problem that just keeps coming up," she says. "People need to understand, it's not a problem with the rich or the poor. It's all the way across the board. It's everywhere."
Taryn Walker
Kathy O'Keefe, whose son Brett died at age 18 from a heroin overdose. "This is an old problem that just keeps coming up," she says. "People need to understand, it's not a problem with the rich or the poor. It's all the way across the board. It's everywhere."
Pastor Rob Reid of Rockpointe Church was a teenage junkie during the heroin epidemic in Plano in the 1990s. "Nobody got the whole Plano thing until three years later," he says. "People looked back and said, 'Wow, 18 kids have died, this is a real problem.'"
Taryn Walker
Pastor Rob Reid of Rockpointe Church was a teenage junkie during the heroin epidemic in Plano in the 1990s. "Nobody got the whole Plano thing until three years later," he says. "People looked back and said, 'Wow, 18 kids have died, this is a real problem.'"

"What do you think he should do?" Kathy asks the kids.

"That's so hard," one boy says. "Age-wise, you can't just kick him out of the house."

Another boy volunteers that his parents kicked him out around that age. He lived with his friends before going to stay with his grandparents. But from the roundabout, mumbling way he's speaking, and the incredulous looks Kathy is giving him, it's obvious whatever measures his parents took didn't hold. He's clearly stoned.

"Are you clean?" Reid asks him. The boy responds opaquely with a story about how he leaped out of a moving car and has been taking hydrocodone for the injury.

"You couldn't be clean if you're jumping out of a car," Reid says cheerfully.

"Are you covering up some kind of pain?" the mother of the 16-year-old says to the boy. He shakes his head

The meeting ends soon after, and the kids head outside en masse for a smoke break. "This is what keeps Miss Kathy sane," one boy, the sober one, says of WTF, taking a meditative drag. "This is like an extended family."

Indeed, Kathy refers to the WTF teens as "my kids." She knew most of them before Brett's death. After his funeral, she says, they were at her house constantly. "They didn't know where else to go," she says. They swam in the pool, or sat in the back, smoking cigarettes and talking about Brett.

In the parking lot, another mother stands near her car, talking to Kathy about her own son. She tries to stay calm, the mom says, when he talks openly to her about his drug use, his drinking, his sexual escapades. "I didn't want to freak him out," she says, "and have him not be able to talk to me."

"We were open with Brett," Kathy says evenly. "And Brett's dead."

An earlier version of this story described the suspects in a 1990s heroin bust as being from Flower Mound.

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