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Zach’s story: Turning tragedy into triumph

Zach Crotty, of Colden, passed away from an accidental overdose in 2009. His parents have vowed to share his story and help end addiction.
COLDEN—Suzanne Crotty, like any other mother, speaks to her son Zach often. Zach, however, doesn’t respond, not in the traditional sense. Suzanne and her husband Mark lost their son Zach to an accidental overdose in 2009 when he was 19 years-old. In those four years, it’s been a roller coaster ride, the Crottys said, but Suzanne often receives signs from Zach.

Last week, Crotty had six encounters she believes were at the hand of her son, including one that involved James Taylor and another concert-goer. The Crottys were in line to meet Taylor at his concert when a women standing next to them asked him to play “Suzanne,” referring to Taylor’s song “Fire and Rain.” She told Taylor that her son had just relapsed, Suzanne Crotty got the chills.

“That was Zach,” she said as she retold her encounter. “That lady could have been ahead of me, behind me, she could have called [the song] “Fire and Rain,” but she was right next to me. That was Zach.”

After Zach passed, the Colden couple went through his room, and learned a lot more about their son. He had journals filled with writing about his addiction to prescription opioids and how the life he was living wasn’t the life he wanted for himself.

“Zach loved helping people,” Mark Crotty said. “He was a good kid.”

It is with that legacy of Zach, in addition to the current addiction epidemic, that the Crottys began their journey to help other parents and individuals who are affected by addiction.

The Crottys, with help from The Buffalo News reporter Sue Schulam, have decided to publish Zach’s writings, first on a blog and eventually in book form.

With a push from Dr. Richard Blondell, who had treated Zach, the Crottys began telling their story in hopes it would spark a conversation about addiction.

“[Dr. Blondell] said we need to be able to get this information out there and it’s going to take someone like [the Crottys] to put people together and tell our story,” Suzanne Crotty said. After that conversation, the Crottys began speaking with senators and other politicians to get something done.

“Addiction used to be something you kept in the family,” Mark Crotty said. “Even with Zach, we didn’t say too much.” The Crottys realized, however, that addiction was becoming more and more of an issue, including in the Western New York region.

“Zach used to go to Springville to get drugs,” Suzanne Crotty said. “It’s happening here. To our kids.”

The Corttys, with help from local politicians, were able to get the I-STOP Act passed in New York. I-STOP, which will be effective March 2015, requires all medications prescribed to a patient to be electronically filed and transmitted so anyone practicing medicine is aware of a patient’s regiment.

The Crottys explained that their hope is that the I-STOP Act will cut down on addicts going to different doctors, lying about their prescriptions and getting more drugs. They have also been involved in prescription drug drop days, and have participated in speaking at local high schools.

The Crottys stopped speaking at high school when it got too hard to relive their story, but know their fight isn’t over.

“Speaking on social media, the blog and the book, it gives us the chance to do it at our own pace,” Suzanne Crotty said. “If one day I don’t want to write, I don’t.”

While posting about Zach, and reliving the pain, isn’t easy for the Crottys, they know the importance of what they’re doing.

“It won’t bring Zach back, but I’ll keep telling Zach’s story, so other people can share it,” Suzanne Crotty said. “Even if we help just one person, we’ve made a difference.”

The blog, “Zach’s Story,” posts one chapter a month but houses other information for battling addiction. The first chapter was posted in July and the second is set to appear later this month. For more information on the Crottys’ work, or to read Zach’s Story, visit or

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