Most Influential 2016: Aimee Dunkle
After her son Ben died at age 20 from a heroin overdose, Aimee Dunkle established the nonprofit that provides community members with overdose recognition and response training and naloxone, a potentially life-saving overdose antidote. (Photo Courtesy of Aimee Dunkle)
Role: Executive director and founder of the Solace Foundation of Orange County
Bio: A Rancho Santa Margarita resident, Dunkle moved to Orange County from London with her husband and son Ben, who was 21/2 at the time. After her son died at age 20 from a heroin overdose, Dunkle established the nonprofit that provides community members with overdose recognition and response training and naloxone, a potentially lifesaving overdose antidote.
Why she is an influencer: Since Dunkle began working with the Orange County Needle Exchange Program at the Santa Ana Civic Center in February, the foundation has distributed more than 1,600 naloxone kits and recorded 388 lives saved. Prior to the partnership, the foundation recorded only a dozen lives saved. “When you distribute naloxone among people who are in active drug use, that’s when the majority of lives are saved,” Dunkle said.
Biggest challenge: “Funding. Having to worry constantly about having naloxone to support these people.”
Thoughts on the overdose epidemic: Naloxone use “has expanded, it’s talked about a lot at the federal level. What makes me sad is it’s not used by the Santa Ana Police Department, and one of our clients died at the new homeless center in Santa Ana.”
Can’t live without: “The love of family and friends.”
What’s next: “Just to make sure it’s a sustainable program,” she says of the naloxone distribution. “I would like to include people in recovery in this work because I think it gives them a goal to strive for. It gives them hope.”
– Jessica Kwong