Family: Mental illness led to Tecumseh football coach’s overdose death

A former Tecumseh High School football coach died from a drug overdose after suffering from anxiety, depression and frequent panic attacks, his family said.

Kent Massie, 48, died June 13 at Springfield Regional Medical Center, six days after collapsing at his home. The cause of death was drug intoxication involving fentanyl, according to the Montgomery County Coroner’s Office.

MORE: Former Tecumseh football coach Kent Massie dies at 48

“Kent did so much good while he was alive but his anxiety was overwhelming,” said his wife, Mary Massie, in an exclusive interview with the Springfield News-Sun. “If I can encourage people to talk about anxiety, look into it and begin to understand how to cope with it, then Kent can continue doing what he did best — helping people believe in themselves.”

Substance abuse is listed on the coroner’s report to describe how the fatal injury occurred. The cause of death is listed as a loss of brain function as the result of cardiopulmonary arrest as a consequence of cyclopropylfentanyl intoxication. Fentanyl was in his bloodstream, according to the toxicology report.

RELATED: Mayer: Mental health matters

“It’s like a walking nightmare,” Kaye Massie, Kent Massie’s sister said.

The manner of death for Kent Massie is listed as an accident, according to the autopsy report.

“In spite of what the death certificate says, I don’t believe Kent was an addict,” Mary Massie said. “I believe he was desperate to calm his brain down.”

The drug epidemic affects all areas of Clark County, including those who are leaders in the community, said Melanie Silvus, director of the Clark County chapter of the Families of Addicts organization.

“It doesn’t just happen to people on the street,” she said. “It can happen to anyone and affect anyone’s family, unfortunately.”

Kent Massie was an intervention specialist at Tecumseh Local Schools, where he worked for 25 years. He spent 24 seasons with the Tecumseh football program, serving as an assistant until he was hired as head coach in 2005. The Arrows went 72-48 in 11 seasons, making seven playoff appearances during that time. Kent Massie stepped down after the 2015 season, citing health reasons.

MORE: Shawnee, Tecumseh change drug polices after newspaper investigation

“It’s a health issue that started with stress,” Kent Massie told the Springfield News-Sun at the time. “I needed to get it taken care of. And I’ve got two young boys and I want to spend time with them. I want to be their dad.”

Kent Massie was placed on leave last October after being accused of alleged substance abuse but returned to work in December after a screening came back negative.

A legal dispute over his father’s estate caused Kent Massie to have anxiety over the last few years of his life, Mary Massie said. The anxiety kept him awake at night and started a vicious cycle of exhaustion, she said.

“Kent didn’t hate anyone,” Mary Massie said. “I believe he forgave everyone and I know he didn’t judge others. He just couldn’t believe he was good enough to beat his anxiety.”

Society treats mental illness differently than other diseases such as cancer or heart disease, Mary Massie said.

SPECIAL REPORT: Healthy Springfield

“Society would have understood and let him have time to heal but because he stated anxiety and depression, he was immediately exposed to the opinions of people with a Facebook account,” she said.

The cause of death can’t negate the years of positive impact he had on the community through teaching and coaching, Mary Massie said.

“Kent Massie loved life and he loved people,” she said. “I know he loved me and his boys.”


$175K grant will increase addiction care at Springfield health center

1st-of-its-kind center for addicts, families opens in Springfield

Clark County schools make changes due to drug crisis, 1 stocks Narcan


The Springfield News-Sun has written extensively about opioid and heroin problems in Clark County in the past five years, including stories about local people in recovery and efforts to expand treatment options. This year, the News-Sun will take a deep dive into the community’s drug epidemic and what local leaders are doing to solve the problem.

By the numbers

97: Unconfirmed, suspected drug deaths so far this year, a record number

82: Confirmed drug deaths in 2017

79: Confirmed drug deaths in 2016

Source: Clark County Coroner’s Office

About the Author