Clay County

Clay County mother describes struggles and impact of losing daughter to fentanyl overdose

CLAY COUNTY, Fla. — Fentanyl, the deadly drug Clay County officials are busy trying to keep off the streets, has caused heartbreak for so many families across our area.

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On Wednesday, the Clay County Sheriff’s Office announced several arrests linked to a large-scale fentanyl operation and one local mother is talking about the loss of a her daughter to the deadly drug.

Amber-Lee Johnson, 28, had her whole life of ahead of her, but in 2018, it was tragically cut short when she died from a fentanyl overdose.

“She was very funny, outgoing, she loved to help people,” her mother Stacy Williamson said.

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Williamson said Johnson’s whole world was about giving back. She spent years working at Clay Behavioral as a drug counselor. At some point, she unfortunately got caught up in drug abuse herself.

“It started with prescription pain medication. I don’t know who gave her the street drugs,” Williamson said.

Williamson said she was the one who found her daughter when she died. The impact of her death has been a struggle for their family.

“Very, very difficult, it’s something no parent should ever see,” she said. “My son, my youngest daughter struggle, like really bad.”

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Williamson said her daughter overdosed a few times before she died, saying she also went to rehab. She said one of the most challenging parts is wishing she had been more supportive through that process.

“I handled it totally wrong. This isn’t something they can just stop, and that’s what I thought,” she said. “You have to love them regardless and if it takes them 9, 10 times … you may not see them tomorrow you have to love them today.”

Clay County officials said the drugs they seized in the operation were to be shipped over the Mexico border to California, then sent to an address in Fleming Island. From there, they say the fentanyl would have gone to Orange Park and be pushed out to every corner of northeast Florida.

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Glenn East is a battalion chief with Clay Fire Rescue and community paramedicine coordinator; he said fentanyl has been a growing problem in the county since at least 2017.

“Most of the stuff that’s showing up on the street, whether it’s cocaine, meth, fentanyl, whatever it is ... has fentanyl in it, even marijuana has fentanyl in it,” he said. “Ultimately, they will go unresponsive, they will turn blue, those kind of things, pinpoint pupils, and obviously, unresponsive and stop breathing is worst case scenario.”

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Williamson hopes they continue to clean the streets.

“You do drugs now, it’s Russian roulette,” she said.

If you’re struggling, she said it’s okay to ask for help.

“You have a family that loves you, that wants you to stay alive no matter what, you need to stay,” she said.

Since her daughter’s passing, Williamson said that once a month, she meets as part of a Grief Recovery After Substance Passing group for those who have lost loved ones to substance abuse.