Nashville's Mayor Is Speaking Openly About Her Son's Tragic Death To Help Other Families

"If that saves one life, then what a blessing."


On Monday morning, Nashville Mayor Megan Barry visited an elementary school to welcome kids back for the new school year. But it was also a fresh start of sorts for Barry herself, as the day marked her return to work after her son, 22-year-old Max, passed away of an apparent drug overdose on July 29.

While some may expect, and understand, that Barry would choose to deal with Max's death privately, the mayor has instead chosen to speak openly about it, in the hope that her family's story will start an important conversation about drug abuse

According to USA Today, Barry held a press conference Monday from her office desk, marking the first time she has spoken publicly about her son's death. She shared that he had entered himself into a rehab facility in Florida last summer, after "occasional brushes" with drug use.

"I don't want his death to define his life, but we have to have a frank conversation about how he died," said Barry, who last week livestreamed a public memorial service for her son. "We don't have the full autopsy yet, we don't have the final toxicology report, but the reality is that Max overdosed on drugs."

"My hope is that it may inspire and encourage other parents out there to have frank conversations with their own children about this," Barry said of her decision to speak frankly about Max's death. "If that saves one life, then what a blessing."

Barry explained that Max, who graduated college earlier this year, had gotten a job at a construction company in Denver, where he intended to get an apartment with friends before eventually returning to Nashville.

"That's where Max was in his journey, and then last Saturday night, he was with some friends ... and together with those friends, he did take drugs and those drugs did kill him," Barry said, connecting her son's story to the wider problem of opioid abuse around the country. "This is not an unfamiliar nationwide or community conversation. It's a national epidemic. Again, I don't know the exact combination of what killed my son, but drugs did it."

Barry shared that in Davidson County, Tenn., in particular, there were 245 opioid-related overdoses last year. The mayor spoke further about the crisis with PBS this week, sharing how her own community continues to deal with the issue. Barry explained that all first responders have been equipped with Narcan, a medication to treat opioid overdose, and the city is also in the process of hiring an addiction specialist. She added how important it is to ensure people have access to treatment options, pointing out that her son was able to enter rehab because he had health insurance.

But Barry also stressed the importance of talking honestly about the issue, which is why she and her husband decided to be "transparent" about Max's death.

"I cannot tell you how many people have come to me and shared their own grief stories about a loved one who died, where they never talked about it before," Barry told CNN. "And I think that, as a community, we aren't ever going to get in front of this epidemic if we aren't actually having these kind of very frank conversations."

In an essay published Monday by the Tennessean, Mayor Barry thanked Nashville for its support during a difficult time, and vowed to return the gesture in serving the community.

"You've blanketed us with love and kindness," Barry wrote. "I want to do everything in my power — and with my power — to do the same for you."


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