Media Awareness

Stop the Stigma: How This Pittsburgh Woman Came to Devote Her Life to Fighting the Addiction Narrative

It’s a role she never wanted, a role no mother ever deserved, but Sherry Jo Matt’s mission changed when her daughter died from a fentanyl overdose.

Sherry Jo Matt, Siena Bott, Dylan Bot, and Thomas Bot at a graduation ceremony
Pittsburgh Magazine - logo
Originally Published: March 27, 2023

Sherry Jo Matt wrote her daughter’s obituary at 4 a.m. on Sept. 14, 2020, mere hours after speaking to detectives on what is still an open homicide investigation.

Where obituaries typically paint over an overdose as the cause of death with “died unexpectedly” or omit one entirely, Matt blamed “the demons of mental illness and the shackles of addiction” for the death of her 21-year-old daughter, Siena. In an urgent call to action, she demanded of readers to “stop the judgment!”

Pulling from those fortuitous lines, still locked in the ravages of grief, Matt and her husband, Tom Bott, who live in Franklin Park, founded the Stop the Judgment Project just weeks later to end the stigma surrounding opioid misuse and mental illness.

Stop the Judgment Project takes a multifaceted approach to destigmatization, and though still in its fundraising phase, has already pushed Allegheny County to change how toxicology reports are released to families. Months after her daughter died, Matt recalls being blindsided by the fateful report saying Siena died from a fentanyl overdose. A neighbor found her crumpled beside her mailbox.

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