(ST. JOSEPH, Mo.) A new picture hangs on the wall of a St. Joseph drug rehab center, joining the growing number of portraits of those taken from a drug overdose. Sitting inside the polished frame is Jimmy Baggio's daughter, Amber.
“I'd just ask her why, why did she go down this road?” said Jimmy Baggio, daughter overdosed on opioids.
St. Joseph's overdose reports spiking in 2021. Buchanan County EMS reports 150 overdoses by the end of March. Five people have died. City leaders and social service workers are calling the spike in overdoses an epidemic as they begin brainstorming solutions, such as an in-patient detox center. But until a solution is found, people continue to lose loved ones, like Baggio.
It's been three weeks since Baggio answered a parent's worst nightmare- a phone call saying his daughter is gone.
“I started crying and got emotional. I realized it was over," said Baggio,“Her mom’s the one that found her.”
Amber overdosed on March 23rd at just 27-years-old. Her father said he spoke to Amber just the day before not knowing she had recently started using, not knowing he would never see his daughter alive again.
“And I said I'd call her back because I was doing something and I never called her back. It’s a regret I’m going to have for the rest of my life,” said Baggio.
Friday, Baggio sat inside St. Kolbe-Puckett Center for Healing sifting through old memories of his little girl. Disposable pictures that look like they were taken out of any family's photo album. He pulled out pictures of Amber in her Simba Halloween costume, her picture day photos from school and Amber playing with her younger sister.
“Yeah, they were very close,” said Baggio.
Baggio remembers his daughter as giving the best hugs and a true friend to everyone she met. Amber's sudden death leaving a heartbroken family with more questions than answers as they try to wrap their heads around how their straight A's, loving big sister overdosed on opioids.
“Was it something I did?” asked her father, “I tried so hard to protect her from that. I didn’t let her spend the night at anyone’s house growing up. I kept a close ring on her. I just want to know why, just why.”
Baggio sharing his daughter's story in hopes of saving another family from experiencing this horrific grief by hanging a picture of their son or daughter on the rehab center's wall- a wall quickly running out of room.
“I just wish I took the time. Going through her phone, you can obviously see stuff that you don’t know until it’s too late. She was actually crying for help and you don’t know it,” said Baggio.
Amber's father said he continues to hold onto his daughter's cell phone, hoping he wakes up from this nightmare. Baggio said, “I wanna keep her phone with me because I’m just praying one day she’ll call.”
For more information on opioid overdoses and the life-saving drug Narcan, call St. Kolbe-Puckett Center for Healing at (816) 259-5318.