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Moms Tackling Drug Overdoses Head On by Making Documentaries

In the face of the growing epidemic of prescription drug deaths, a pair of local moms have teamed up to raise awareness and, hopefully, save lives.

Jodi Barber and Christine Brant have something in common, but it's not where they go to get their hair coiffed or grab a meal. The women want to put a halt to local teens abusing and overdosing on prescription pills.

They are hoping to get the message out via a documentary about what Barber says is "a growing epidemic not only in Laguna Niguel, but throughout all of Orange County."

And they are off to a good start, Barber says.

On May 16, the women held the first of two fundraisers at , where more than 150 people showed up, and raised $2,820. Another will take place this week through Wednesday, also at the family-style restaurant. Mention Barber and Brant's documentary project and 30 percent of all purchases will go toward their efforts.

"I know a lot of these kids because I've helped them with their own situations," Barber said. "I spend a lot of my time talking to kids about what happened to us and encouraging them to get help."

She lost her son Jarrod, 19, on Jan. 8, 2010.


The two mothers came up with idea for their project while discussing what they could do locally to try to stop the increase in prescription-pill related overdoses, Barber said. Brant—who has four healthy kids of her own—was inspired to contact Barber after seeing a poster of local teens and young adults—including Jarrod—who recently died from prescription overdoses.

Jarrod was a graduate of . Since his death, Barber has been on a crusade to get the word out, hoping to spare other families the pain she's endured.

Barber treats the crusade as a full-time job, working closely with community members and local teens who are affected by drug abuse. Many of the attendees at the first fundraiser were teenagers who greeted Barber by her first name and with hugs and high-fives. 

She is often called to speak at memorials and has spoken to students at Aliso Niguel High School about the topic.  

Their documentary will feature many local kids who have lost their friends, some parents who lost a child to prescription overdoses, as well as siblings who are dealing with their devastating losses.

Brant and Barber intend to distribute the documentary to as many schools across the nation as possible.

Documentary Two

The second documentary called, Behind the Orange Curtain, will be a short film that will delve into the problem of teenage/young adults' prescription pills abuse, Barber said.

"Overdosing is occurring in record numbers, with more than 82 deaths ages 15 to 24 in the last three years in South Orange County," she said.

The documentary will be filmed by Hollywood director Brent Huff and writer-producer Zac Titus. Barber is hopeful that it will make the film festival circuit as well as be picked up by HBO and other television networks. The main story will focus on Jarrod but will also feature  Aaron Rubin, who overdosed on Oxycontin in 2005 and nearly died. He was left a quadriplegic, unable to speak and needing 24-hour care.  

Sylvia Melkonian, who lost her son, Mark, also to a prescription overdose on May 25, 2010, will be in the film. Mark was a junior at

Filming will begin this Wednesday at Barber's house.

Last week's fundraiser attracted so much attention that Ballpark Pizza ran out of pizza dough. Barber and Brant say they are hoping for the same success this week.  

Jodi Barber May 26, 2011 at 05:54 AM
Great article! The Patch team ( Debbie and Debbie) always does a fantastic job! Thank you for wanting to help fight this war against prescription pills by bringing awareness !
johnny Pollastro May 26, 2011 at 06:13 AM
Awesome job Jodi we stand by you100% john Pollastro
Colleen Verruto May 26, 2011 at 03:35 PM
what an honor it is to have you as my friend. You sure make a difference
Kelli Hallett May 26, 2011 at 04:38 PM
YOU are amazing!!! Keep up the great work, YOU do make a difference!! Love you my friend <3
Kerry May 26, 2011 at 05:24 PM
Very nice. This is a video about making a video, haha. Well done and best wishes to those who are making it happen!
Margie Fleitman May 26, 2011 at 09:24 PM
I know first-hand about prescription drug abuse and the epidemic that is taking over our at-risk youth. I lost my oldest son, at age 22, on June 11, 2010. Since then, on top of the sorrow and heartbreak my family has endured, there is also the stigma that is associated with accidental drug overdoses in today's society. We live in a bubble in Mission Viejo, as well as many other communities as well. Parents can not ever imagine this happening to their family. But it CAN and it DOES! Jodi, I am so sorry for your loss. I am greatful to anyone who dedicates their time to bringing awareness about the war on drugs. I have received quite an education since our devastating loss and I'm also trying to help others who are going through difficult times with a loved one. My personal focus is not just prescription drug abuse, but coupled with mental health issues, as well. It is not enough to have an annual anti-drug walk in our city and hand out little red bracelets that say "Say No to Drugs". It is a starting-off-point, yes, but clearly not enough. I support the documentary you are creating and thank you for your involvement in this very worthy cause. All the best to you in your efforts!
Anne(Annie)Berryhill May 27, 2011 at 01:30 AM
Jodi- I love that you are putting yourself out there for the benefit of anyone within the sound of your voice. Whether or not we have been directly affected by the tragedy doesn't matter. We need to become involved and united to give these kids the tools they need to be saved. 3 of the young men we lost had some association with our family, and I can't even begin to imagine yours or their pain. May you and many people be blessed by your efforts and devotion to the cause...and to the young people we all would pray to be able to save!
Jodi Barber May 27, 2011 at 02:30 AM
Thank you so much for the love and support Johnny, Colleen, and Kelli! You guys keep me going! I love you<3
Jodi Barber May 27, 2011 at 02:49 AM
Thank you Margie. I am very sorry for your loss of your son. Its truly an epidemic and I'm doing my best to stop it!
Jodi Barber May 27, 2011 at 02:54 AM
Annie, thank you so much for your support.You always have such inspiring words! You're right. I think if more people were involved, the more of an impact! Thank you for the blessings<3
Tom Berney May 28, 2011 at 12:00 AM
If anyone want to support my friend Denise Cullen who lost her son Jeff to overdosing on pain pills, please vist her web page: GRASP, grief after substance passing.;Anyone who has lost a loved one through addiction knows that society treats that death in a much different manner than a death from any other cause. There is the unspoken feeling that the individual who succumbed to drugs must have somehow been less than a good person. And for the person who has survived, surely they too must have somehow been a failure, for "letting this occur." Why were they not strong enough to stop this from happening? You were, they feel, in whatever way, partially a factor in the demise of the person you grieve. As Dr. Carlton K. Erickson, Professor of Pharmacology, and Director, Addiction Science Research and Education Center from the University of Texas, Austin, commonly states in his lectures: SPAM -- Stigma, Prejudice And Misunderstanding kills more addicts and alcoholics than anything. We believe that it does great harm to those who love the person suffering from this disease and ultimately impairs their ability to grieve as well.
Margie Fleitman May 28, 2011 at 01:02 AM
Tom... I wholeheartedly support Denise and Gary Cullen as I have been in constant communication throughout the last year with Denise since my son passed away almost a year ago. GRASP or Grief Recovery After a Substance Passing, is a terrific organization that is there for support after losing a loved one from substance abuse. I encourage all parents to visit the website at grasphelp.org to educate themselves and use it as a resource for others that are struggling with these same issues. Perhaps you might find a thought or word on the website that may help you as you navigate your way through your grief journey. SPAM - Stigma, Prejudice and Misunderstanding DOES exist and those who have lost a loved one to addictions have to live through this every day. It should not make any difference HOW your loved one's life ended, just that it DID and now we are left to grieve and deal with all the emotions that go along with grief. Every loss is tragic and a loss due to substance abuse should not be diminished in any way.
Tom Berney May 28, 2011 at 01:26 AM
Thank you Margie, yes we can together , God Bless the families, and grant them the strength and peace to carry on.
Jodi Barber May 28, 2011 at 05:48 AM
Thank you Tom for mentioning GRASP! I just went on it and it's a wonderful way to gather information and share our stories. I'm going to copy it to a facebook page my friend started called "Prescription Drug Addiction, "Save Just One"
Mark Christensen May 31, 2011 at 03:28 AM
We'd like to host a fundraiser at the Coach House in San Juan Capistrano. Let me know how we can help. Thanks, Mark Christensen Event Planner - The Coach House
Jodi Barber May 31, 2011 at 03:36 AM
Thank you! Can you please call me at 949 831- 5480? Jodi
Edwatd September 22, 2011 at 03:38 PM
Awesome! Keep it Going! You are Wonderful! JONBOY'S INC. www.jonboysinc.com 1-888-9-JONBOY
kellie Longo September 26, 2011 at 06:09 PM
I admire your strength and determination. The documentary is amazing and should be shown to Jr high and high school students everywhere. Do you have an email address that I can contact you directly? Kellie Longo
Denise cullen April 03, 2013 at 07:17 AM
We (GRASP) do absolutely Not support you. Your tactics are more of the same failed policies And worse. Do not usu our name connected with your work unless it is for grief support (totally free.) or to listen to alternatives to the failed war on drugs/people. You are on the same old same old path that has gotten us nowhere - unless you want to count the highly increased death count. And please don't try to blame it all on thedoctors. Very soon well be seeing a huge increase in heroin overdoses as a result of your fabulous work. What the, say you?


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