Henrico man’s addiction battle inspires new documentary series

Jenny Derr says friends and family members often describe Billy as "genuine."

HENRICO, Va. (WRIC) — Jenny Derr remembers the impression her son Billy made on so many people during his life.

“He was a goofball. I mean, he made people laugh,” she recalled, smiling. “He loved sports, he loved to eat.  He was all about good food.”

Now Jenny is hopeful Billy will continue to make an impact in his death.

“No one starts out a heroin addict, but a lot of times that’s where they end up,” she told 8News Anchor Amy Lacey.

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Jenny says Billy battled addiction for six years.  His family first noticed his struggles when he was a Senior at Godwin High School. He drank alcohol and smoked marijuana at first, but then his addiction snowballed.

Rehab helped Billy get clean, and Jenny says no one even knew he was using again until he was found lifeless in his Boston apartment on April 14. He was only 24-years-old.

“Moms are going to be the force of change, and to do that, we need to start talking about it,” Jenny said. “So that’s what I’m trying to do, spread the message.”

Jenny is sharing Billy’s story in the new documentary series Behind Familiar Faces.faces

“The goal of this series is to bring to the forefront lives that have been taken from us too young by drug addiction and alcoholism,” Billy’s friend Evan Goldstein explains in a video for the series.

Goldstein’s Boston-based Half Lit Smile production company is behind the series.  He launched this Kickstarter campaign on Monday and more than doubled the goal in the first 24-hours.

“My husband and I sat last night looking at the results coming in,” Jenny says about the all the support the Kickstarter campaign received.  “Just, I mean, blown away, lots of tears, lots of emotions.”

Jenny knows Billy would be so proud his experience can help put a face on the heroin and opioid addiction to help others.

“The face of addiction isn’t a homeless person living on the street. It’s your child, my child, our neighbor’s child,” she says.  “You wouldn’t hide if your child had Diabetes or Cancer, so you got to shed light on a problem or you’re not going to eradicate it.”

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Follow this link to donate to the project or to share details about loved ones who lost their lives to addiction.  Jenny says the series will initially profile Billy and then share the stories of others.

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