A Maine bartender who was a contestant on “Jeopardy!” drew attention to the opioid crisis during his interview with host Alex Trebeck in the episode that aired Wednesday, remembering two local women who were victims of the epidemic.
Dennis Coffey, who works at Duffy’s Tavern & Grill in Old Orchard Beach, told Trebeck about Molly Parks and Sarah Berlin, two young women from Old Orchard Beach who passed away in 2015 within a month of each other at the respective ages of 24 and 25.
“I worked as a convenience store clerk, Alex, and I had two regular customers come in, Molly and Sarah, and they were wonderful girls,” Coffey said, using his contestant interview as an opportunity to shed light on the opioid crisis. “Unfortunately they’re no longer with us because of the opioid crisis. This epidemic has killed 500,000 people in this century — 70,000 people in 2017. I’m sure a lot of people have stories similar to Molly Parks and Sarah Berlin.”
“It’s time we stepped up to the plate and did something aggressive about it,” Trebeck responded.
Dennis used his interview to call attention to an urgent issue affecting many people in the country today. pic.twitter.com/fHz9odXW0A
— Jeopardy! (@Jeopardy) January 22, 2020
Molly Parks’s father, Tom Parks, shared a clip of the exchange on Facebook.
“Thanks Dennis Coffey,” he wrote.
After his daughter’s death in 2015, Parks wrote candidly about the 24-year-old’s struggles with addiction in a Facebook post that was shared thousands of times.
“My daughter Molly Parks made many good choices in her too short life and she made some bad choices,” he wrote. “She tried to fight addiction in her own way and last night her fight came to an end in a bathroom of a restaurant with a needle of heroin. Her whole family tried to help her win the battle but we couldn’t show her a way that could cure her addiction.”
In her obituary, her family continued to be open, urging others with loved ones struggling with addiction to “do everything possible to be supportive and guide them.”
“Molly’s family truly loved her and tried to be as supportive as possible as she struggled with the heroin epidemic that has been so destructive to individuals and families in her age bracket,” they wrote.
Her family told the Portland Press Herald they hoped that by sharing Molly’s story, someone else could be helped and her death would not have been in vain.
“I see a lot of obituaries from families that are losing twenty-somethings, thirty-somethings, and forty-somethings, and they’re all saying they died suddenly,” Tom Parks told the Washington Post in 2015 of why his family chose to share Molly’s story transparently. “But that’s not the truth, and we know that because we just went through it.”
According to the Press Herald, in the year leading up to the overdoses of Parks and Berlin alone, emergency workers in Old Orchard Beach responded to 99 overdoses and administered Narcan, the overdose-reversal drug, 23 times.
On Wednesday, Coffey told the Press Herald that he will never forget the two young women.
“I’m no crusader and I’ve never been much involved in causes, but I can remember having some great conversations with them,” he told the newspaper. “Their loss hit the Old Orchard Beach community very hard.”
Wednesday marked Coffey’s fourth and final appearance on the show — he’d been on a winning streak since Friday night, according to the Press Herald. He ultimately won $52,203 during his time with the contest.