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This is Cree, 12/24/2014.
Read more about Cree and The Cree Project below. 
In Memory of Cree
December 9, 1995 - May 5, 2015

 The Cree Project's mission: to address the nationwide epidemic of Substance Use and assist in recovery through education and outreach.

In August of 2015, I founded The Cree Project, in memory of my son Cree Castro-Topp, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization.  Cree appears to have fatally overdosed in Veinte de Agosto Park in Tucson, Arizona at the age of 19, after a five-year battle that began with opioid painkillers use and ended with heroin use, among other substances. The marketing of opioid painkillers and masking of their dangers to both children and adults is the villain in this story. That is where the accountability lies in addition to a systemic and comprehensive lack of support designed to disenfranchise and eliminate resistance and awareness. Beginning in 2017, to promote awareness and prevention of opioid and general substance use education, I have continued to work collaboratively with key stakeholders throughout Southern Arizona to develop a curriculum and deliver empowerment-based outreach to teens and their families with an emphasis on rural communities. In May of 2018, after several months of working with The Cree Project, students at Douglas Ppep Tec and Douglas High Schools presented their own project educating their peers on the dangers of Opioids. In July of 2018, the University of Arizona Med-Start students presented a curriculum they developed for The Cree Project/SEAHEC Joint Opioid Education Initiative targeted for ages 11-13. Much of my inspiration to become a psychotherapist arose from my experiences with my son, along with my own lived experiences, and a desire to help others heal.

About the Cree Project: Welcome

The Cree Project: Why?

The Cree Project’s primary focus at this time is education and outreach specific to Opioid Use Disorder. Current research finds that opioid use follows a basic template among young adults, and begins with non-prescription use around age 16, most often transitioning to heroin use within 4 years (1).

The source of the current epidemic began in the mid 90’s with the introduction and aggressive marketing of the prescription opioid painkiller Oxycontin by Purdue Pharmaceutical company, which is owned by the Sackler family.

As of October 2019, Purdue is preparing to declare bankruptcy in the face of its culpability in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people over the last two and a half decades. In the United States, from “1997 to 2007, opioid prescriptions steadily rose 700%, cresting in 2012 when nearly 260 million opioid prescriptions were written,” while deaths by opioid overdose “increased by nearly 600% from 1999 to 2017,” (2). 


1. Guarino, Honoria, et al. “Young Adults' Opioid Use Trajectories: From Nonmedical Prescription Opioid Use to Heroin, Drug Injection, Drug Treatment and Overdose.” Addictive Behaviors, vol. 86, 2018, pp. 118–123.,

2. Hodge, J. G., Gulinson, C., Barraza, L., Johnson, W., Hensley, D., & Augur, H. (2018). Exploring Legal and Policy Responses to Opioids: America’s Worst Public Health Emergency. SSRN Electronic Journal. doi: 10.2139/ssrn.3293347

In May of 2016, The Cree Project was granted its 501(c)(3) status in the state of Arizona.

About the Cree Project: Text

Do not stand at my grave and weep
I am not there. I do not sleep. 
I am a thousand winds that blow. 
I am the diamond glints on snow. 
I am the sunlight on ripened grain. 
I am the gentle autumn rain. 
When you awaken in the morning's hush
I am the swift uplifting rush
Of quiet birds in circled flight. 
I am the soft stars that shine at night. 
Do not stand at my grave and cry; 
I am not there. I did not die. 
Mary Elizabeth Frye

About the Cree Project: Famous Quote

Since the morning that I learned that Cree was no longer on this earth to this day, there has not been a moment that I have not thought of him. Cree was 19 years old when he died. He passed away in pretty typically dramatic fashion (he always knew how to get his point across), on the steps of Veinte de Agosto Park in Tucson, Arizona under the tallest building in the city on the evening of Cinco de Mayo. In other words, there is no way any of us who know his story can go anywhere in Tucson without orienting directly to where Cree passed away.

That building is visible from just about anywhere. Veinte de Agosto Park also happens to be the site of the original San Agustin Church. So, Cree passed away on hallowed ground, within 15 feet of what is left of the church, which was built as an annex to the San Xavier mission and stood within the grounds of the Tucson Presidio. I would expect no less of him.

At the time that he died, the heroin epidemic had not yet come to the forefront of the national consciousness. It was just two weeks after he passed that the epidemic was featured in the June 2015 Sports Illustrated, with stories about young athletes given painkillers for sports injuries and finally turning to heroin when the pills became too expensive - Cree's story as well.

Though he was not prescribed painkillers, they were readily available to a generation of children who did not know the dangers of experimenting with opiates that are as addictive as heroin.

Then the floodgates opened, and suddenly information on the epidemic was everywhere. Cree's family has watched with both agony, and relief at the understanding this has provided us, and hope that the information becoming common knowledge will save other lives and families from this suffering.

Cree's story is becoming the story of a generation lost to the painkiller/opioid epidemic. Similar to losing a bright young generation to a war, we watch in horror as more and more people overdose and the numbers lost to this epidemic grow. – Susannah Castro

About the Cree Project: Text
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