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The youngest to die: Morgan Johnson lost the battle that started at 14


One line in the police report of Morgan Johnson’s death offers a sad commentary on how a young mother’s struggle with heroin affected her family.

Click to read the special report

When West Palm Beach police notified Johnson’s grandmother in Texas about Morgan’s death, Ellen Gaudin told them that she knew one day she would get that call.

>>Interactive Calendar: All the lives lost

>>Heroin scourge: 'Not a thing being done about it'

Just 19, Morgan was the youngest of the 216 people who died from a heroin-related overdose in Palm Beach County in 2015.

Morgan had been in and out of treatment centers in Texas for five years, trying to kick an addiction to drugs that started when she was 14.

“It was like a roller-coaster,’’ said Gaudin, who raised Morgan since she was 2.

>>What is addiction? Why some can’t give it up, others can walk away

>>‘It was a tidal wave I saw coming early on that I could not stop’

A treatment center in Texas recommended a new setting for Morgan, out of state, far away from the environment where she was struggling, Gaudin said. Morgan came to West Palm Beach in spring 2015.

On June 26, 2015, she was found dead in a house south of Belvedere Road, a few blocks from the sober home where she had moved just two months earlier.

>>How addicts and families can get help

>>Full Coverage: Generation Heroin special report

In the police report, one of the responding officers remembered Morgan from a heroin overdose call just a week earlier, at the corner of Allendale Road and Parker Avenue.

On June 19, Morgan was treated at Good Samaritan Medical Center. She told the police officer that day that she was living at New Directions Halfway House in West Palm Beach.

After that relapse, Morgan was sent to a detox facility. But she left a day early, against the advice of clinic employees, according to a statement given from a New Directions official to West Palm Beach police.

Gaudin said she had been in contact with her granddaughter. She said Morgan had become upset when the detox center wouldn’t allow her to talk on the phone with her 3-year-old daughter in Texas for longer than an hour, as stipulated by the center’s rules.

Morgan told her grandmother she had used heroin the night before her death and regretted it.

In an interview with The Palm Beach Post, Gaudin said she and her husband had been optimistic about Morgan’s chances of recovery after she moved to West Palm. “We were planning to visit her in July for our anniversary,’’ said Gaudin, who is now caring for Morgan’s daughter.

Instead, they shed tears together on March 9, which would have been Morgan’s 20th birthday.

“I’m not blaming anybody. I know it’s everywhere,’’ Gaudin said of drug addiction. “She just lost the battle to it.’’


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