Adding a jolt to the growing undercurrent of emotion and concern about the opiate problem on the Island, an Oak Bluffs mother and elected Island official has gone public with her anguish over her daughter’s heroin addiction.

Christine Todd posted an emotional plea last weekend on the crowdsourcing site along with a picture of her daughter, who is 22.

“My daughter Catherine needs help,” she wrote. “I live in fear every minute of every day that she will be the next to die from this disease.”

Ms. Todd is an elected county commissioner and chairman of the Dukes County Commission. She works as executive director of the Oak Bluffs Association, the town business association.

In her public appeal, Ms. Todd said her daughter’s insurance would only “get her into the bare minimum of facilities that may do more harm than good. She is ready to commit to treatment but I do not have the money to get her into a facility that could truly save her life. Please help me if you can.”

In a matter of hours Ms. Todd had raised thousands of dollars from more than 550 Islanders contributing amounts large and small. By press time Thursday, funding totalled nearly $45,000. Also on Thursday, Ms. Todd said that her daughter had entered a detox facility on the Cape.

Heroin use is at epidemic levels in New England, and the number of deaths from overdoses has spiked alarmingly in the past few years. State and local public health officials have begun to step up efforts to gather more precise statistics and create programs for education, prevention and treatment.

On the Island, where as in other places the stigma of heroin use has made it difficult to get accurate information on the scale of the problem, community leaders have begun to plan an Islandwide public forum to help residents learn about available resources and air their concerns about perceived gaps in services. Organizers include Martha’s Vineyard Community Services, Vineyard House, law enforcement, EMS and boards of health. Tentative plans call for holding the forum on June 6, said Amy Houghton, director of human resources for Community Services, in an email to the Gazette on Thursday.

Speaking to the Gazette by telephone earlier in the week, Ms. Todd described in detail how her daughter, formerly an A student and accomplished athlete at the Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School, had spiraled downward over a period of several years into the throes of prescription narcotic abuse, and then heroin addiction. She spoke about the barriers to recovery that she and many families face. Her daughter has entered treatment previously, only to relapse, she said.

“You basically kick your kid out,” she said. “A lot of people don’t do that. You realize you’ve got to make these tough choices. If you make it easy for them, there’s no motivation for them to change their lives. She’s pretty upset with me most of the time. They say if an addict is your friend you’re probably enabling them. If an addict is angry with you, you’re probably doing the right thing.”

At one point, she said Catherine entered a treatment center in Brockton housing hardened criminals addicted to heroin. It was the only available treatment center with an open bed that would accept her family’s health insurance.

Catherine Todd was not interviewed for this story, and Christine Todd said her daughter did not know ahead of time about her mother’s decision to seek help through social media. In fact Ms. Todd said she acted on impulse, after receiving alarming messages and phone calls from a variety of people she didn’t know, telling her Catherine was in deep trouble. There had been many crises before. But this time felt different, she said.

“It stirred up amazing panic in me and despair, the deepest despair I’ve felt with this whole thing. I thought she was going to die.”

She said on Sunday morning, “I woke up, it wasn’t even like I thought about doing this and five minutes later I had a account. I was acting out of desperation really. I wanted to feel like I had done everything I could to help my daughter.”

This week, the Massachusetts Department of Public Health issued updated statistics that show the epidemic is taking a toll greater than previously thought. Statewide, DPH now estimates that 1,526 people died of opioid overdoses in 2015, 147 more than originally estimated. That represents a 12.5 per cent increase over 2014, when an estimated 1,356 people died. Opioid deaths spiked in 2014, up 49 per cent over the previous year. The statistics include heroin as well as other synthetic painkillers.

The overdose reversal drug naloxone, often known by its brand name Narcan, is now carried by many police officers and emergency responders.

For the first three months of 2016, statewide, DPH estimates 116 people died statewide in January, 138 died in February, and 148 in March from opioid overdose. And for the first time, DPH is now tracking the presence of fentanyl in drug overdose cases. Fentanyl is a synthetic opiate, 50 to 100 times more powerful than morphine. In the past two years, many illegal drug producers began adding fentanyl to heroin, which can produce a more intense high and more powerful addiction. According to DPH, more than half the fatalities where toxicology reports were available in 2015 involved fentanyl.

The Martha’s Vineyard numbers remain relatively small by state statistics. DPH recorded five overdose deaths on the Vineyard last year. But state epidemiologists say the statistics very likely under count the number of deaths.

Those who treat opioid addiction on the Island estimate the death toll is more than double the official state statistics.

In recent interviews, Dr. Charles Silberstein, a local psychiatrist, and Hazel Teagan, an addiction counselor who works with patients at the Martha’s Vineyard Hospital, estimated the death toll of Island residents at 12 to 16 people in each of the past two years.

The stark documentary, Heroin on Cape Cod that aired on HBO this year, follows eight young addicts living seven miles across the Sound. Two people featured in the film later died.

Meanwhile, Ms. Todd said she was floored by the response last weekend to her appeal on, a crowd sourcing website where anyone can set up a fund to raise money for a cause or an individual.

“I was overwhelmed. Blown Away. Physically upset. In shock and disbelief,” she said. “I couldn’t believe what was happening. My phone was ringing off the hook.”

In her capacity as county commission chairman, she has made the opioid issue a top priority. A letter to the editor from her on the topic is published in today’s edition.

She acknowledged bluntly that the odds are long for Catherine.

“She’s got three choices,” she said. “She’s going to be in treatment, she’s going to be in jail, or she’s going to end up dead. I don’t know which one’s going to happen.”