After Toni Randall lost her son to substance use, she turned to Facebook to share the story of his death. She hoped it would help someone else. Her goal was for 100 people to share it.
To date, more than 9,600 people from all over the U.S. have shared her post and more than 1,700 have left comments.
In mid-May of 2019, Elijah Randall was just one month shy of his 22nd birthday. His mother says Elijah (whom she also calls Eli) was very excited about having started his dream job a few days earlier. He was also in a good place regarding substance use. He had spent time in rehab, met regularly with his probation officer, paid all his own court fees, attended recovery meetings, and earned back his driver’s license. For a long time, he had wanted to ask out a girl who had been a friend since high school. Toni says that his life was in order and he was finally ready to do so.
The couple went out together on Saturday, May 18. Toni awoke at 2 a.m. on Sunday to the sound of Elijah’s and his sister’s laughter in the kitchen after Eli’s date had ended. He was scheduled to work that day and Toni says he was excited about earning overtime pay. When his alarm kept going off at about 6:45 that morning, Toni went upstairs to make sure he was up. “I found him sitting on the side of his bed with his head laying on the nightstand,” she said. “I thought he was asleep. I reached out to touch him and he was cold.”
“Heroin was his substance of choice,” said Toni. But she says toxicology reports showed no heroin in Eli’s system. Instead, she says it was pure fentanyl, a powerful prescription drug to treat severe pain. “Most times when someone dies from an overdose, the syringe is empty. Eli died with 30 units of poison still in the syringe. In my research, I have discovered that (30 units) would be an entire single dose of heroin. More than likely, the tiniest drop (of fentanyl) entered his system and he was gone.”
In talking with police, the coroner, and Eli’s friends, she learned that he had driven to nearby St. Louis two days before his death to buy what he thought was heroin. She learned that dealers sell it in small capsules called beans for as little as $5.
While Eli was still alive, Toni wanted to understand his substance use – part of the “radical love” with which she and her family surrounded Eli as he struggled. She attended many related groups, including Partnership for Drug Free Communities in Madison County.
Toni now works for Chestnut Health Systems as a community health specialist, helping to create the Bond County Recovery Council, a place where all community members can come together to raise awareness about substance use disorder, to educate, and to support recovery efforts. It is in that capacity that she will participate in a panel discussion about creating recovery communities. Event details are as follows:
Date: Thursday, September 23, 2021
Time: 7 p.m. – 8 p.m.
Presenters: Toni Randall, Community Health Specialist, Chestnut Health Systems
Mark Sanders, Project Manager, Illinois Prevention Technology Transfer Center
Ty Bechel, Founder and Executive Director of Amare, a not-for-profit organization
Viewers will learn about the importance of community support for people in recovery; the importance of family support; the community costs of ignoring substance use; how and where family members can seek help; and getting educated on addiction and recovery.
Chestnut Health Systems is a non-profit organization that has cared since 1973 for persons needing behavioral health services. Chestnut provides substance use disorder treatment, mental health counseling, primary health care, credit counseling, and housing and supportive services. It is a leader in substance use-related research. More at www.chestnut.org.