EFFINGHAM — A Missouri native brought her message of hope for those struggling with addiction and those affected by it to Effingham Thursday during her third bicycle ride through the Midwest.

Jeanette Krupp launched Stay Strong Krupp in 2019 after her cousin passed away in 2016 from an overdose and her brother was struggling to stay sober. She started the nonprofit organization to bring a message of hope and spread awareness about substance use disorder, mental health, and many other issues facing today’s society.

“For those who are struggling, there is hope,” she said. “There are so many roller coasters when loving someone who has an addiction.”

The former pro bodybuilder started the 400-mile bike ride in 2018 to raise awareness about the opioid crisis.

“My brother was in and out of prisons ... rehab,” said Krupp. “I was tired of everything that was going on and couldn’t understand why nothing was being done.”

In December 2020, Krupp took her brother to a rehab facility in Arizona.

“He was doing great and transitioned to a sober home,” said Krupp.

She said he received a call his children weren’t doing well and he should come back to take care of them.

“We told him you have one more month, don’t come home,” Krupp said. “My parents are raising the children and they are fine and you stay there. Unfortunately, someone bought him a bus ticket and he never made it home. He overdosed on the bus.”

Her brother died from a fentanyl overdose.

“Before he passed, he said to me, ‘Thank you, sis, for being the voice for so many that don’t have one,’” Krupp said.

“My first two rides he was at the finish line with me,” she said. “He got motorcycle riders to follow me in. When I get there this time, he won’t be there to hug me. Even through all of the struggles, he was always at the finish line and would always say thank you.”

She has a tattoo on her right arm that shows her brother riding down a winding road. It also shows Karl’s date of birth and date his life ended.

Following a break due to COVID, Krupp said she is trying to get her word out once again and get into more schools and rehab facilities to speak.

“I’ve had hip surgery in both hips, knee surgery, elbow surgery and a double mastectomy all in the past year and a half,” she said. “So, just being here is a blessing.”

Krupp started her six-day, 450-mile 2022 bike tour in Cincinnati, with stops in Indianapolis; Terre Haute, Indiana; Marshal; Greenville; St. Louis; Chesterfield, Missouri; and Washington. Missouri, reaching her final destination at Union City Lake Fairgrounds in Union, Missouri.

Krupp said her new mission is to pass some laws to require public transportation to carry NARCAN, which can treat overdoses.

“It is a possibility my brother could have been saved if there was NARCAN on the bus,” said Krupp. “Right now there isn’t that chance for addicts who travel on public transportation. I think some kind of law would save so many lives.”

Effingham Police Chief Jason McFarland, who met with Krupp during her stop, said there have been 14 overdoses in Effingham within the past year.

“Of those, seven were fentanyl related,” McFarland said. “We’ve used NARCAN about a dozen times.”

The Effingham Police Department participates in “Safe Passage,” a regional program for drug users.

“It’s a program that allows police departments to enter into agreements with treatment facilities,” McFarland said. “Twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, someone can come to the police department and say ‘I need help.’ We call the facility and say we have someone here requesting ‘Safe Passage.’ They will find a bed for them. If they can’t, they find a neighboring facility.”

McFarland said the Safe Passage program depends on volunteers to drive the person to an available facility for help.

Krupp said affected families should start talking about drug addiction and not try to hide the problem.

“How can we find a solution if we’re not talking about it?” she said. Addicts “don’t feel like their loved. They are disappointed in themselves. I’ve never met anyone who has an addiction that is proud of what they’ve done. Never. They just don’t know how to get the help to stop.”

Charles Mills can be reached at charles.mills@effinghamdailynews.com or by phone at 618-510-9226 or 217-347-7151 ext. 300126.

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Charles Mills is reporter and videographer for the Effingham Daily News. A 1983 graduate of Southern Illinois University, Carbondale, he worked as senior video editor for a Nashville television station. He is a native of Vandalia.