ANN ARBOR, MI - Chris Herren knows the perils of substance addiction. It literally killed him.
Paramedics determined the former NBA starter was dead in the back of an ambulance for 30 seconds in 2008 due to a heroin overdose, according to Yahoo! Sports in a 2011 article.
His basketball journey before then was promising. He was a McDonald’s All-American at his Fall River, Massachusetts high school, a productive scorer for Fresno State University under legendary coach Jerry Tarkanian and a brief starter for the Boston Celtics.
That path, however, was littered with issues with drugs leading to that fateful night in 2008. Herren committed to sobriety shortly after that, and 15 years later, he will share his story at the Michigan Theater in Ann Arbor.
Herren is the keynote speaker for a drug prevention program at 7 p.m. Wednesday, March 8, at the historic Ann Arbor theater, 603 E. Liberty St.
The presentation is called “Prevention Starts with All: The Chris Herren Story.” Tickets are free and open to the public. Advance registration can be found online.
Herren will present a short film called “The First Day,” which he made with director Jonathan Hock. The two collaborated on the Emmy Award-winning ESPN documentary “Unguarded,” also about Herren’s ascension toward professional basketball intersecting with his journey to sobriety.
Herren’s story is particularly compelling for people from many angles of the substance addiction and drug prevention issue, said Mary Jo Desprez, director of Wolverine Wellness at the University of Michigan and co-chair of Ann Arbor Campus Community Coalition.
“His message will resonate with people sort of along the continuum,” Desprez said, including people who have never used drugs before to those starting to experience problems to family members or caregivers.
After the film screening, Herren will speak on such issues as prescription drug use, vaping, mental health, gateway drugs and how society must work together toward drug prevention. Desprez will conclude the evening with a panel discussion on how people can seek local resources in an effort to combat drug addiction.
The panel also features:
- Gregory Harden, a life coach and former UM associate athletic director
- Katie Abraham, a UM School of Public Health master’s candidate
- Dr. Victor Hong, medical director of UM Psychiatry Emergency Services
- Philip Veliz, associate director of UM’s Sport, Health, and Activity Research and Policy Center
The panel will act as a community discussion to “localize and contextualize” Herren’s message for the Ann Arbor, UM and Washtenaw County community, Desprez said.
“What we’re really hoping with that second part is that we make sure that nobody leaves without a connection to a resource that can help them continue the conversation,” she said.