The country music star has long used his platform to speak out against the fentanyl epidemic
As Jelly Roll advocates against the fentanyl crisis, he’s also looking out for his own kids.
The country star, 39, has long used his platform to speak out against the fentanyl epidemic and even spoke before congress in a January hearing as a plea to lawmakers to pass legislation that combats the supply and distribution of the synthetic opioid in the U.S.
While speaking with PEOPLE about his role in Uber Eats' Super Bowl commercial, the “Wild Ones” singer opened up about why he sees the pervasiveness of the issue to be so important and how it could potentially affect his family.
“We've seen crack. We've seen cocaine. We've seen opioids. But we've never seen something that is so deadly in such small amounts that's being mixed in so many different things,” says Jelly, who has previously spoken candidly about his own experience with addiction.
Considering the vast possibility that any substance could be laced with fentanyl, the father of two — daughter Bailee Ann, 15, and son Noah, 7 — is concerned his children could come into contact with the deadly drug.
“My daughter will never experience the safety of experimenting with drugs,” Jelly says. “I know that sounds crazy to say, but when I was a kid, my mother would be like, ‘You're going to try everything once. Just be safe.’”
“It's not safe for any kid to be doing anything,” adds the musician (whose real name is Jason Bradley DeFord).
Jelly points to just how dire the epidemic is — over 150 people die in the U.S. per day from fentanyl-related overdoses — as contributing to his concern for his kids as well as other young people in the future.
“How many more people does [fentanyl] have to kill a day before we start to care, if the number right now is close to 200? I just think it's time to speak about it,” the Grammy-nominated performer says. “It scares me for my daughter. It scares me for my son. It scares me for this next generation. We've never seen nothing like fentanyl.”
Jelly believes speaking out is the first step to thwarting those statistics. “I think opening conversations about some of this stuff is the beginning of healing, right?” says the “Save Me” singer, who's addressed fans about the issue at his concerts.
He continues, “A lot of problems we have in America is that we just don't openly talk about the s--- that's really happening the way we should. It's kind of like once you break the ice and put them on the table, then can't ignore it much longer after that.”
In the month since he spoke before congress, Jelly's seen an “unbelievable” positive response from fans and peers, who've shared their own stories with him.
Since turning to music as a cathartic outlet and breaking out as a country star, Jelly has repeatedly mentioned the challenges he’s overcome, including being arrested on drug-related charges, in order to be an inspiration for others and become a family man. (He and his wife Bunnie Xo raise Bailee Ann and Noah together.)
While speaking at the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee hearing in favor of passing the FEND Off Fentanyl Act in January, the "Need a Favor" artist opened up in his lengthy address about his own experience.
“I've attended more funerals than I care to share with you all [on] this committee,” Jelly shared at the time. “I could sit here and cry for days about the caskets I've carried of people I loved dearly, deeply in my soul — good people, not just drug addicts. Uncles, friends, cousins, normal people, some people that just got in a car wreck and started taking a pain pill to manage it. One thing led to the other and how fast it spirals out of control — I don't think people truly, truly understand.”
“I was a part of the problem,” he added. “I am here now standing as a man that wants to be a part of the solution.”
If you or someone you know is struggling with substance abuse, please contact the SAMHSA helpline at 1-800-662-HELP.
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