Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Recovery Voices Count at the DHS Budget Forum

Taking one of the few remaining seats at the recent DHS budget forum, I was overwhelmed by the number of people with stories pertaining to recovery, which showed the need, at the very least, to sustain current funding levels for treatment. I was also profoundly moved by the ongoing suffering of active addiction as a direct result of inadequate funding. Although the forum was for all developmental disabilities, including-retarded citizens, hearing impaired, and the blind, the recovery presence proudly dominated the arena.

Given only three minutes each to make their case, NCADD-NJ advocates focused on issues such as recovery communities, bridging the treatment gap, and the state’s Good Samaritan Bill, which would give immunity to anyone calling 911 to give care to some who overdosed.

Some leaders told their stories through the analogy of addiction and the devastation left in the wake of Hurricane Sandy. This image helped illustrate the wreckage associated with addiction as a chronic disease. It crystallized the fact that addiction not only affects the addicted, it changes the course of the lives for their children, parents and loved ones. A chance at recovery can mean the difference between a sad and hopeless life for a child and one filled with hopes and dreams.

 NCADD-NJ Advocacy Leader Kathy Brown explained how her 14 years of long-term recovery afforded her a career as an adjunct professor and her three children a decent life. One of her children just passed the bar exam to become a lawyer. Many would agree this is a testament to the domino effect of recovery.

NCADD-NJ Leader, Cindya Mercado 
Another NCADD-NJ advocate, Cindya Mercado, who helps to run the first state Recovery Center at Eva’s Village in Paterson, told her touching story of addiction and recovery. It is because of her journey that she is able to help hundreds of others in this effective recovery community center of which we need so many more.

Concerning the treatment gap, the Leaders presented the alarming statistic that some 800,000 people in NJ are in need of treatment, yet only 5-7% of them receive it. People are dying in part because waiting lists for treatment are just too long. Many who need treatment have to hope that a fellow addict doesn’t show up for treatment just so they have a chance at life.

Parents spoke up who have lost their children as a result of an overdose, which may have been prevented if a law such as the recently vetoed Good Samaritan Bill had been in effect. Although DHS cannot control the Governor’s veto, it doesn’t hurt to voice these tragic truths publically to help change attitudes and move the policy forward.

Some of NCADD-NJ staff drove home the reality that they are living proof that many people who suffer from the disease of addiction absolutely DO recover and lead productive lives. In order to see more of these successes we need additional treatment dollars for quality treatment and recovery centers to begin to meet the demand for many who have not even had one chance at recovery. I can only hope that these words impacted the decision makers-as they touched me - when the budget hearing was over and decisions for the FY 2014 are being made.

Dorene Kinloch
NCADD-NJ Communications Specialist &
Staff Writer

Friday, November 09, 2012

Opiates Casually Dispensed

Not long ago, I was taken to the emergency room after being hit by a car while cycling. I came away from the mishap certainly shaken but, considering what could have happened in such a collision, suffered only quite minor injuries: two gashes on my leg requiring stitches and a sore shoulder. The pain caused me some discomfort but was by no means excruciating (trust me when I say I have no great tolerance for pain).

I was given morphine in the ER and on release from the hospital a generous prescription for vicodin. At no time did the doctor offer any word of caution given about the potency of the painkillers, nor was I asked anything about having addiction history.  I was not taken by surprise by this; in fact, it’s just what I expected given what I had heard from others.

The lax regard for painkillers was in stark contrast to all other aspects of the fine treatment I received. The attending physician was by and large thorough and caring, and the nurses were attentive. The gap between these areas of medical care and the way the opiates were so casually doled out only made this shortcoming all the more glaring. It perfectly illustrates the absence in medical training of education about addiction.  

Prescription opiates and other strong painkillers should not be taken lightly, yet they are liberally prescribed. Certainly my experience is the norm, not the exception. The Partnership for a Drug-Free New Jersey recently orchestrated the state’s annual collection of unused prescription drugs. This is a good way to prevent misuse of strong painkillers, but an even better way would be if these drugs were not so readily available in the first place.

Daniel J. Meara
NCADD-NJ Public Information Manager