Very sad news to report: Dylan Stanley, our former director of community outreach, has died of a probable overdose. The Ohio harm reduction community’s heart is broken for the loss of a beautiful soul.
Dylan was one of the smartest, most articulate, dynamic harm reduction activists in Ohio. In one of our last conversations, we talked about her writing and starring in a one-woman show about her life. It would have been amazing!
Dylan was the greatest public speaker in Ohio on the subject of harm reduction. She was overflowing with brilliance, charisma and wit. Dylan spoke for Harm Reduction Ohio and people with lived experience at conferences held by the Ohio State University, the Ohio Department of Health and many others.
To get a sense of Dylan’s brilliance and verve, watch her speak (for the first time in public!) at a forum in Newark, Ohio, on the value of syringe service programs (“needle exchanges”) and the SafePoint program in Columbus. She spoke without notes, advanced preparation or foreknowledge that she would speak at all.
Loving mother, harm reduction warrior
Dylan also struggled with drugs and mental health issues — and the current systems in place to help people with such problems never worked for Dylan. Dylan was at her best and happiest on methadone. But the heavy regulations that limit access to methadone made it nearly impossible for her to stay on the medication that worked for her.
To get methadone, Dylan had to take a pair of city buses (a one-hour, two-bus trip each way) across town every day so she could wait in line at dawn, day after day, for one dose of methadone. This was never going to work for Dylan long-term. And it didn’t.
Dylan was — in her heart, her soul, at her core — an independent free spirit. She was a force to be respected, worked with and reckoned with, not someone to control at every step.
Dylan, 30, was originally from Grandview Heights and lived in Columbus. She had a daughter, Ruby, who she loved very, very much. Dylan had struggled especially hard in recent years since the death of her mother, who had been Dylan’s anchor of support for most of her life.
“She was a warrior, a survivor of the streets who would have run a kick-ass safe consumption site,” says Harm Reduction Ohio’s Montgomery County director Shelia Humphrey-Craig, a friend and mother-like figure who helped Dylan often. “She was an advocate for mothers’ rights who had no home of her own.”
Dylan saved many lives
Our former advocacy director Taylor Bennett was especially close to Dylan and brought her into Harm Reduction Ohio. Our hearts go out to Taylor (shown above with Dylan) for the loss of such a close friend and harm reduction partner.
Dylan came to Harm Reduction Ohio as outreach director in 2018. She fell away, slowly, in late 2019 as her struggles grew. We stayed in touch and supplied her with Narcan and other harm reduction supplies whenever possible.
What Dylan needed was a safe consumption site, a place where she could use opioids and function as a productive member of society. The photo below touched me deeply today. It shows Dylan at last year’s Harm Reduction Ohio “Family Matters” conference in front of our model safe consumption site, which Sheila Humphrey-Craig designed and takes around Ohio.
We were too slow, Dylan, in making the safe consumption site you needed a reality. Sorry.
Even while struggling, Dylan was an important harm reduction force for good in the community of people using drugs in Columbus. She distributed Narcan religiously to dozens of active opioid users who were at extreme risk of overdose death. Personally, she administered Narcan to save the lives of more than two dozen people who had overdosed.
Dylan’s life was stormy. But even during tough times, she was a force for good, a lighthouse that shined brightly during the storm. Dylan meant a lot to Harm Reduction Ohio and many other people.
Rest in peace, Dylan. This world was never meant for someone as beautiful as you.
— Dennis Cauchon, President, Harm Reduction Ohio
She was the kindest and most loving person in all of harm reduction. I only pray that one day Ruby knows how many lives her mother saved and how hard she fought for others. Ruby she was the best person any of us ever worked with or talked with. You have no idea how loved your mother was and tomorrow will be the worst opioid awareness day of my life thinking about this. No one cared as deeply as Dylan did and it showed in every action and word she wrote. She fought for those everyone gave up on and she was the most incredible person I’ve ever had the privilege of fighting beside. No one helped others the way your mom did 😭😥💜🙏
I was st the community meeting in Newark. She spoke from the heart and spoke of the importance of clean needle exchanges. I then met and spoke to her at my first Harm Reduction conference. She spoke of the love she had for her daughter. RIP beautiful 😢
This young lady should still be here today. Our city is so far behind in helping others that it makes me sick everytime I learn of one of our children passing from drugs. I see many homeless and I help them. Even if I can make a difference for only 10 minutes
Dylan is proof that our community as a whole let her down. Thank you Dylan for all you tried to do.
May you rest in peace.
It is so hard losing loved ones. This article broke my heart. I wish more people understood what harm reduction is instead of just thinking addicts should go away. My thoughts and prayers are with the staff and her family.
I’m so sorry to hear of the loss of such a beautiful soul and to hear what I hear all to often…that the system failed her in many ways. So many people live their lives and don’t help anyone, let alone the many people she helped and lives she saved.
I remember Dylan growing up a few doors down from us. Our girls and her went to school together. We are very saddened by the news hoping one day to see her again. No words
Dylan was my niece, and she had a family who loved her dearly and would reach out over and over again and helped her. I am finding flaws in the narrative she shared with many people. Some of the stories she told about hardships and abuse leading to her troubles are not true. EVERYONE in her immediate family and a few concerned people close to the family reached out to her over and over. She was an extremely intelligent person, but always looking to for an “easy” way to live. Truth be told, people who loved her often felt used because she often took from us whatever she could get. Dylan was given many opportunities over the past decade to put herself in a better place, but refused. I do not come her to tarnish her memory, but I do want to set the record straight because, in her telling, myself and my family were made out to be demons. We were not and are not. We never wanted this for her, in life or in death. We loved her and wanted her to thrive and be healthy. She lied about her family, especially to her harm reduction friends. I know addiction is a disease and Dylan’s death is heartbreaking for her family, friends and herself. But her tragic passing and personal narrative should not be coupled with untruths. It’s not fair to people who loved Dylan and tried to help her or to people with drug problems who are truly suffering and wanting to change. I felt a family member needed to comment. We loved her.
She was actually originally from Palmdale, CA. I was her neighbor…we used to play together at each other’s houses as kids. My parents and her Dad still live there, which is how I found this news. She moved to Ohio later on with her Mom, who also passed away several years ago.
<3 Prayers to you and your family. I grew up a few doors down from her, where Ben and my parents still reside.
Prayers to you and your family.
Thank you, Sara. God bless you.
Why was this theonly place to get the methodone.? I lost my granddaughter in Dec 18 to a drug over dose. I remember over 15 years ago driving to work in the morning seeing the line dowtown Columbus to get it. You mean that is the only way in a city as big Columbus that this can be provided. It is now 2020 and they still have to go through this? I know how hard it is toget help for your loved on e. I thought it was getting easier, but I guess not unless you are rich. No one kn ows that heart ache until they live through it. My granddaughter left 3 children an d a heartbroken family.