Central Florida has the highest per capita rate of heroin overdoses in the nation, and the death toll continues to rise each year. The communities and families there remain plagued by the consequences of drug use. Tinker Cooper lost her only son to a heroin overdose in 1996, and is an advocate for education and is fighting the war on drugs. She founded Families Against Drugs (FAD) in 1998 to provide support to families who have lost a child to drug overdose.
She has since evolved the entity into an action group that is dedicated to drug education and prevention. The group included those who have lost loved ones to drug overdose, families who have a family member in recovery or still using, as well as recovering addicts. Cooper retired from her career as a teacher to dedicate her life to drug education and deterrence. She spends her days, nights and weekends fighting drugs. In conjunction with the Orange County Sheriff’s Office, she produced the emotionally charged video “Overdose: End of the Party”, which included actual crime scene photos of youth found after dying from a drug overdose. She uses the video and other literature when she teaches public, private and alternative schools; rehabilitation centers; drug education centers; churches, middle and high school groups; jails; juvenile facilities; and juvenile boot camps.
Cooper has also worked with the Florida Commissioner of Education to implement the video in all middle and high schools in the state. She continues to work with law enforcement agencies and governmental officials. Her aim is to enact stricter mandatory sentencing for drug dealers, drug treatment in jails, after-care for released prisoners, more beds and funds for treatment facilities and the development of a statewide overdose hotline.
Cooper is a national resource and has spoken at political events as well as testifying at several congressional hearings on drugs, including the Corrections Committee in the Florida State Legislature and in the Florida State Legislature at the Drug Summit. She also provides local, state, and national television and radio talk shows with drug information and families who contribute testimonials.
Cooper’s unwavering dedication to this cause has helped countless people. She donated her son’s brain for drug research after his death, and that selfless act resulted in important findings related to the damage done by certain drugs. The findings were published in the July 25th issue of Neurology.
Tinker Cooper received the Jefferson Award for community service, and she will continue her service in hopes of saving lives. Visit the Families Against Drugs Web site at www.fadinc.org