Below is the letter we sent to the senators of Maine urging them to overturn the veto by Governor LePage of the Naloxone Bill L.D. 1547 that would have allowed pharmacists to dispense Naloxone without a prescription in addition to expanding access to Naloxone by Fire Departments and Police Officers.
In Governor LePage’s veto he states that Naloxone “serves only to perpetuate the cycle of addiction” clearly indicating that his preference would be to allow them to die. He also stated in his official veto that “Naloxone does not truly save lives; it merely extends them until the next overdose.”
Apparently Governor LePage has never met anyone in recovery. We have. We believe in recovery and we know recovery is only impossible for those who are not living.
Here is our letter:
We are a national organization working to raise awareness, reduce stigma, create and implement programs and advocate for policy changes to have a profound impact on the opioid crisis.
That’s a very long way to say, each and every day we are comforting mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters and the CHILDREN of people who are overdosing and dying.
Each and every day we are working to support those in recovery.
Each and every day we are scrambling to find ways to save the lives of those addicted.
Each and every day we are working to convince people who are addicted that their lives matter.
Between their addiction which tells them otherwise, a society that stigmatizes their existence, a criminal justice system which criminalizes their disease and state and national policies that do not demand the required medical attention as any other illness, it is hard to find ways to convince them that their lives DO matter.
The current system in the United States is leaving our children to die. People with a life-threatening, debilitating and deadly disease that can kill them in an instant if left untreated are being turned away from treatment within hours of a near death experience due to lack of treatment availability, the greed of insurance companies, reluctance of medical providers to take responsibility and lax laws protecting people who are addicted.
How does this go on? Stigma. Our nation seems to believe these lives are not worth saving. Perhaps words come out of politicians mouths declaring differently, but what do the actions show? The actions show, laws can be changed next year, treatment can be available some day and it doesn’t matter that we are losing over 130 lives each day – we’ll keep losing them while we figure this all out.
Then along comes Governor LePage who does not feign words, does not pretend he cares; he flat out, blatantly says, “these lives are not worth saving.”
This seems ghastly to so many. This seems like an outrage. It would seem to many, this can’t be real, WHO would think this way? WHO would say such a thing.
Those of us on the front lines say, “Welcome to our world.” Between the actions and inaction of state and federal governments and the comments we see on news articles daily – and the fact that our children are literally dying; Governor LePage simply said out loud the stigma we and those addicted are faced with every day. The message in our nation today is loud and clear – you don’t think our children’s lives and you don’t think the lives of those of us addicted are worth saving.
And then people wonder why so few can pull themselves into recovery when this is the message they are given.
We need you to stand up and SHOW us this is not true. We beg you today to send a different message.
What Governor LePage has done is outrageous and the last thing we need is yet another message out there to add to the impression that addicts lives don’t matter.
We know they do.
The grief over losing my son matters.
The grief of the mothers and fathers of over 250,000 lives lost since 2010 matters.
The many volunteers who work for our organization who are living in recovery and have their lives back – their lives matter. For several of them, Naloxone IS what gave them that second change.
The 23 million plus people living in recovery in the United States matter.
And the lives of over 20 million people still struggling with addiction in the United States today – MATTER.
Please send a clear message that you believe this to be true. Please override the veto of LD1574.
We will be watching the vote so we can let Mainers and all of the United States know which of you believe our children’s lives are worth saving.
Thank you sincerely,
The entire team at Truth Pharm
Please join us in compelling the senators to overturn the veto. Please send letters ASAP. They vote 4/29/16
If you don’t wish to write your own letter, here is a sample letter developed by “Young People in Recovery” that you can send:
***LD1574 Veto Override Email Template***
Dear Sen. ________,
I am writing to implore you override the vetoing of LD1547, “An Act To Provide Access to Affordable Naloxone Hydrochloride for First Responders”.
There is no evidence to support the claim that Naloxone increases drug use, and studies show the exact opposite. Having access to Naloxone saves lives and increases the potential for a transition in to treatment, whereupon people frequently find recovery and sustained abstinence.
It is imperative to allow for this life saving opioid reversal medication to be made available to those that need it. With the rural nature of the Sate of Maine, often the first on the scene to a person that is experiencing an overdose, and the person that will administer the Naloxone, is a family member or friend. Empowering them with tools to assist in the reversal and transition into recovery, is paramount.
We have the opportunity to join the rest of New England, and dozens of other states across the U.S., in increasing the potential for someone to enter recovery, heal with their family and friends, and rebuild their lives in the community. For those in charge of the safety and wellbeing of the public, this can and should be a priority.
As a person in recovery, a voter, and community member, I thank you for your attention to this important issue and again urge you to override the veto of LD1547.
Go to this page: http://legisweb1.mainelegislature.org/…/senator-i…/senators/
At the top of the page, there is an excel file you can download that has all of the senators’ email addresses in it. You can even copy them all at once and paste them into the “To” field of your email.
Penny emailed me and said, I met this guy, he’s the real deal. His name is Chris Arnade, he writes for The Guardian and he wants to know what’s happening in our area.
I was having a particularly rough and down week emotionally. I know the scale of The Guardian and I was familiar of Chris’ work, but I wondered if I could muster the energy to leave the house for yet one more meeting that week. He contacted me before I had a chance to reach out to him and asked about getting together to talk over the weekend. We decided to meet for coffee on a Saturday morning.
I did my typical, got up and had coffee at home. Got on the computer and got lost. Before I knew it, it was past time to go see him and I hadn’t even showered. I threw on a headband and clothes, half washed my face, put on some moisturizer and deodorant and raced to Binghamton. On my way there, I attempted to text him to let him know I was running late and realized I failed to pay my cell phone bill and my phone was shut off. I almost turned around and went home.
Here I was, leaving the house when I didn’t want to, a phone not working because I didn’t pay the bill, unshowered – all evidence of the depression I had sunk into heading to meet a nationally known writer to talk about a topic that I am passionate about and yet, adds to my sadness.
I hoped as I always do, that we would be talking about Truth Pharm. Talking about the problem at large. Talking about the thousands lost, the millions struggling.
I got there and found him quickly. I was beyond ‘fashionably late’ and he was immediately forgiving. He appeared to be as far behind in showering as I was and I settled down.
He immediately started his interview – all about my personal life. Right from the beginning of my life and I felt uneasy. Why about me? I even asked him. I have so little to do with this. But, he was so genuine, I got the impression that he is like me, he simply loves to know every element of a person – and their entire life’s story. So, there I sat, telling him my story from the time of being a child to the point of losing my own child. He took a few notes. He picked up on my depression and asked about it. He loved that I was an engineer said I should get back to building bridges. A couple hours later, he said he was going for a walk and I was heading home. All the way home, I wished I had stayed. There was just something about him. I could have hung out with him for days, I’m certain.
As I waited the weeks following for his story to come out, I became increasingly anxious. We talked about so much over the course of those two hours, I wondered in the end, what the story would be about. We stayed in contact via twitter and when the story came out, he asked, “Was I fair?” Yes, Chris, you were fair. Thank you.
Read Penny’s and my story here in Chris’ article.
I am honored to be in a story alongside Penny Stringfield and honored our boys, Jeff Dugon and Johny Stringfield share their stories on a page.
Photos by Chris Arnade.
What a great experience to be interviewed by Susan Arbetter on the Capitol Pressroom in Albany. I’ve been a long time fan and after being interviewed by her, I realized why her show is so great. She’s an amazing interviewer. She is personable, caring, compassionate and incredibly well prepared for her interviews. She knows how to keep things moving without making you feel rushed and she helps ensure you get to make the point you were there to make.
I can’t wait to go back!
Listen to the interview here.
Alexis Pleus of Truth Pharm provides oral testimony at New York State Heroin Task Force in Penn Yan, NY
4/22/16: Today is my half-birthday. My six month mark in my journey of recovery. It’s the adventure I’ve always dreamed about only I never looked at it this way before.
I started from nothing and left everything I know and love to take on a quest of saving someone I had only hoped was still there. I’ve fought demons and monsters inside of me I’ve been alone and scared, I’ve lost a loved one along the way, I’ve been so low at times I feel like I barely dragged my body on, I’ve been faced with life changing decisions and based on my new found knowledge I chose the right paths, and I’ve chosen the wrong ones but was able to turn around and start over. I’ve made allies and I’ve trusted enemies but every time I’ve learned and I kept fighting.
I trusted in my faith and it led me to the place I’ve been searching for. To the girl I’ve been searching for.
I don’t know if there is a happy ending to this story because for once I’m enjoying the happy beginning.
Thank you to all of my supporters, my family, and my friends. No hero ever got by without some help along the way. To you all I am grateful.
I’ll never forget my conversation with this young lady in her mom’s kitchen. She curled herself up, knees to her chest, arms wrapped around them perched on a kitchen chair, sometimes dropping her head onto her knees, sometimes suddenly extending all her extremities out at once saying, YES! And explaining to us what she was going through in active addiction. Her pain was raw, her honesty was brutal. For her mom and me, it was a new glimpse into a world we can only try to understand.
If you pause and listen to those addicted, you will learn so much.
She told us of her pain, the life controlled by pills, heroin, the next fix. The physical pain each time she tried to quit. The emotional pain of knowing her family suffered and worried. The mental pain of losing control of her own life.
She told us of her fears – fears that the rest of us who have never been addicted would never guess and have a hard time understanding. Without the glimpse into her world and her mind, we could never fathom.
She said, “What if being sober isn’t any better?” “What if I go through all of this, I work so hard to get sober and then 6 months down the road, I die in a car crash? Then, what would have been the point?” She said she feared finding out who she really is because it had been so long since she was a person not under the influence or control of a substance.
This young lady from upstate New York who had never flown before decided to be brave beyond measure, to face those fears and get on a plane and fly to Phoenix Arizona to be picked up by a stranger and taken to a treatment center to find out the answers to all of these questions.
Hearing from her, reading her posts, watching her journey gives us strength and hope to carry on. We are adding a page to our site called “Hope Rises” in her honor from a post she made with the S.A. Sachs’ quote, “Hope rises like a Phoenix from the ashes of shattered dreams.” On it, we will share posts from her in addition to the recovery stories others submit. You can share your story of hope too. Click on Share Hope on our home page.
Upstate NY voters. If you were outraged enough to do something about the Saturday Night Live “Heroin AM” Skit, I hope you’ll feel the same about enacting change in New York Legislation that will actually help families.
Senator Seward thinks enough changes were made last year in New York legislation to help the epidemic that he feels we should WAIT AND SEE the impacts of those changes before we enact new insurance legislation to help.
Senator Seward’s District is in Upstate, NY – Oneonta, Cooperstown, Norwich, Cortland (see map here: https://www.nysenate.
Senator Seward does NOT feel it is necessary to move the 90 day bill forward. This is the MOST important bill in New York State legislation currently to help families and those addicted – a bill that would REQUIRE insurers to #Payfor90days.
What do you think of a WAIT and SEE approach??
We NEED your help. We need ALL of his voters to call his offices, write his office and email and tell him we need help, we need it now and SPECIFICALLY ask him to PUT BILL S6478A ON THE INSURANCE COMMITTEE SCHEDULE.
You can even easily call any of his offices and schedule a visit with him – sit across the table from him and tell him what you or your family member has gone through in trying to obtain treatment. When we told him that people’s length in treatment is being controlled by insurance companies – he was surprised and said he’s certain the changes they made last year are having an impact on that problem. We have not seen the improvements.
He thinks people are getting long enough stays in treatment and he doesn’t think insurance companies are controlling how long a person receives treatment for. Please let him know what your families have gone through!
He is the chair of the insurance committee and he gets to decide if the bill moves forward or not simply by deciding to or not to put it on the schedule. He told us when we visited him that he had NO intention of putting it on the schedule, that he would rather WAIT AND SEE if the changes they made last year help people ‘enough’ before enacting legislation such as this.
If you don’t want to visit him, send him an email, call him, just please, let him know, we NEED THAT BILL ON THE SCHEDULE!
Here is his contact information. Please let us know if you took action. We NEED your help.
ONEONTA DISTRICT OFFICE (MAIN)
41 South Main Street
Oneonta , NY 13820
Phone: (607) 432-5524
CORTLAND DISTRICT OFFICE
4030 West Road
Cortland , NY 13045
Phone: (607) 758-9005
HERKIMER DISTRICT OFFICE
235 North Prospect Street
Herkimer , NY 13350
Phone: (315) 866-1632
172 State Street
Room 430, Capitol
Albany , NY 12247
Phone: (518) 455-3131
We are visiting Albany to advocate for policy change on May 3rd, May 10th and May 11th.
It is very important that our political leaders hear from us and the struggles we face with finding treatment and having it be affordable and/or approved by our insurance.
Here is our agenda for advocacy for 2016:
Advocacy Agenda for 2016
New York State is not immune to the opioid and heroin epidemic plaguing our country which has progressed now to a crisis. While we have been ahead of the curve on implementation of some important issues such as the Good Samaritan Law and Naloxone access, we remain behind in health parity and treatment access.
As an advocacy organization, we are reminded daily of the many obstacles people seeking help encounter. Here is the typical sequence of events experienced by an individual who has said “I want help”:
- They don’t know where to turn and often go to the Emergency Room. Emergency Rooms do not admit for detox, do not transfer patients to detox, rarely line up treatment appointments and often do not give information regarding access to treatment or evaluations.
- The individual attempts to schedule an evaluation. The wait time for evaluation appointments in NY varies widely, from 2 days to 5 weeks.
- They are most often referred to outpatient treatment, which is known to have a 90% relapse rate.
- Co-pays for outpatient treatment are a huge financial burden. One mother recently reported her son was remanded to intensive outpatient treatment 5 days per week. With private insurance, the co-pay is $40 per visit. At $200/week the bill is higher than her mortgage and electric bill combined.
- If the person goes to inpatient treatment, there is little information about what the facility offers or provides. Many people report arriving at a facility only to be told ‘you need to detox first’ or the opposite ‘you don’t have enough drugs in your system’. One family said a treatment facility employee suggested the parents take their son to make a purchase so he could shoot up and then he could be admitted.
- If they are admitted for detox, few facilities are offering medically assisted humane detox. Even those that are providing it are often saying the person is ‘done detoxing’ after 2-3 days. We had one gentleman told he was ‘done’ less than 48 hours after being admitted.
- If the treatment center finds out Medicaid or the insurance will not pay for the stay, the person is immediately asked to leave with no taper from the Suboxone they were started on and no direct link to their next service provider.
- For inpatient treatment, insurers in New York are typically only approving 7-14 days of treatment. The average seems to hover around 9 to 10 days. We have not heard of a single family with private insurance or Medicaid that has been provided over 21 days at an inpatient facility.
- There are families losing loved ones while they wait for treatment.
Though we believe a multi-faceted approach will ultimately be necessary to conquer this epidemic, nothing is more important than saving those who are desperate for help now. We need our state government to take emergency measures to address those suffering and asking for help now.
Thank you for your time and also offer our help. If you need someone to speak at a hearing, provide testimony or advocate to your colleagues, please call on us. We will help.
We need the following emergency measures:
- Same day evaluations for those seeking help.
- A treatment protocol for persons taken to the emergency room after an overdose. Attached as “Best Practices for Medical Providers.
- Immediate access to treatment or a hospital stay until treatment is available.
- Humane, medical detox.
- Insurers MUST be required to pay for the type and length of treatment known to be effective. Anyone seeking opioid addiction treatment should be granted 90 days of inpatient treatment at a minimum.
- New York State must increase the reimbursement rates so that treatment centers can open and operate here.
- A one call system.
These bills would offer a high impact with low cost to New York and are non-controversial:
- Require all first responders, fire and police to carry Naloxone.
- Require hospitals to provide persons who have overdosed and any support person with them with Naloxone training as well as a kit to take home.
- Require all treatment facilities, outpatient clinics and residential facilities:
- to have all staff trained in the administration of Naloxone and to have Naloxone on premises;
- to follow up after discharge at 14, 30, 60 and 90 days to determine relapse rates and report these statistics to OASAS;
- to provide patient and support persons with Naloxone training as well as a kit to take home upon discharge.
The following bills will have a significant impact on the epidemic:
|S6478A/ A9211||Requires insurance companies to provide at least ninety days of rehabilitation services to an insured upon a doctor’s prescription||Senator Ritchie/ Assemblyman Stirpe|
|S651||Relates to continuing medical education requirements for doctors, nurses and pharmacists; requires three hours of training on the prevention, treatment and mitigation of opiate analgesics and psychotropic drug addiction.||Senator Kennedy|
|S647||Requires the department to draft guidelines for the transition of patients from substances with a high risk of addiction to those with a low risk.||Senator Kennedy|
|S660||Requires disclosure of addiction risks for certain prescription drugs; requires physicians, nurses and pharmacists to provide information on prevention, mitigation and treatment of prescription drug addiction and to have the patient sign a form acknowledging education of such risks.||Senator Kennedy|