Morgan's Mission: Local couple offers insight into affects of drugs throughout country

Laura and George Thurman gave testimony at attorney general Daniel Cameron’s task force on drugs

MOUNT WASHINGTON — Morgan Lewis is still influencing her community in a positive way.

At 23, Lewis died from an accidental overdose while trying cocaine that was laced with fentanyl, a much more potent and dangerous drug.

Near the anniversary of Morgan’s passing, parents Laura and George Thurman were invited to join an Opioid Abatement Advisory Commission roundtable discussion, part of an initiative created by Kentucky attorney general Daniel Cameron to combat fentanyl use and abuse.

The parents founded Morgan’s Mission, a non-profit agency, after Morgan’s accidental death. They have since tried to raise awareness about the dangers of fentanyl and drug use, hoping that public education will help.

According to Laura, the commission scheduled eight roundtable discussions throughout the state. Following the discussions, and the collection of various data, the commission will later develop strategies to further combat the issues.

Laura added that the couple brought unique perspectives to the commission. Not only did they lose a daughter, but George works as a deputy for the Bullitt County Sheriff’s Office and serves as school resource officer at the Bullitt Alternative Center.

“They had asked us to meet the commission in Frankfort,” Laura recalled. “George said that some officers don’t know all of the procedures when handling an overdose situation, and offered suggestions on how to handle it.”

When the roundtables were scheduled, the commission invited the couple to further share their stories and ideas.

“I think Cameron is very serious about this,” said Laura. “They’ve invited mothers, clinicians, police… he’s hitting everyone’s opinion.”

“When we began (the mission), we never knew it would grow so fast or that (Cameron) would be calling,” George said.

Following the initial meeting in Frankfort, George said the commission asked him to create and design a full training course for officers detailing how to properly handle a drug overdose situation, including knowledge of specific resources that could provide further assistance.

“Not every officer has this knowledge,” he said. “That’s why I included knowledge of resources. Some of the information I wouldn’t have known if my step-daughter hadn’t died. We have learned so much since then.”

The inclusion in the roundtable discussions provided an important opportunity for Morgan’s Mission to further help the community prevent against future drug abuse situations, but it’s not the only project for the organization. A primary focus is awareness and education as a tool to prevent overdoses long before dangerous situations take place.

Morgan’s Mission hopes to establish annual scholarship funding for a student at each of the county’s three high schools. George said the 900-plus seniors recently received notification regarding this year’s program.

“They all got an email,” he said. “They have to do an essay on how drugs have affected their life, or about a way to help police fight drugs.”

Each recipient of the 2023 event will receive a $1,500 scholarship. Not to be left out, George said a student at the Bullitt County Area Technology Center would also receive a prize in the amount of $1,000 toward  their employment tools of choice.

“A lot of those students will go into a trade and may not attend college,” he said. “This is a way to assist them further with their career.”

With more funding, Morgan’s Mission hopes to increase the tuition amounts in coming years. Along with fundraising events, Laura mentioned the organization was in line to receive funds from a state lawsuit settlement involving JUUL Labs, Inc., which will provide $14 million to Kentucky.

“The application asked what we needed, and we requested a computer to assist with organizing everything and for our PowerPoint presentations,” said Laura. “We also requested for educational materials and for more Narcan.”

Along with a supply of Narcan that the organization could distribute, Laura hoped Morgan’s Mission could eventually supply the county with a Narcan dispenser machine that could be made available to the public. She mentioned that a dispenser was recently made available in Vine Grove.

And the city of Lebanon Junction recently discussed the possibility of a similar dispenser.

Narcan is a medicine that is implemented when an individual is suspected of experiencing an opioid overdose. It acts as a temporary blocker of the opioid affects, allowing the individual an opportunity to receive further medical attention.

“I know that I wish the house Morgan was in had Narcan because there’s a chance she would still be alive today,” Laura said, adding that part of the organization’s education was an emphasis on awareness for both young people and their parents.

“Others are trying to help by providing housing or jobs,” she said. “We’re trying to help people, too, but we’re trying to catch it earlier, before there’s a recovery period. We want to get into the schools. My daughter didn’t know.”

Laura also wants to erase the stigma that overdoses only happen to young people who are abusing drugs. In Morgan’s case, it was a one-time experiment for a good kid that went wrong.

“It’s people experimenting,” she said. “It’s kids being kids. That’s where we want to focus with the education.”

Morgan’s Mission created a video displaying Morgan’s story for students in the classrooms. Laura mentioned the organization spoke with eighth graders last year from Mount Washington Middle School.

“We are learning now that drug use is starting in middle school,” she said. “I tell the absolute truth about Morgan. Some kids hugged me at the end, they said they could see their parents in me and hoped that their parents never had to go through what I did. We wanna get the education out, but the story really affects them.”

For more information on Morgan’s Mission, or to make a donation, call (502)649-1221 or find the organization’s Facebook page.