And It's Law!
Change takes time. Especially in our laws, it seems. But it is possible when we work together.
As I wrote about seven family’s stories of loss of a child to the opioid crisis in the 2019 book Heartbroken – Grief and Hope Inside the Opioid Crisis, I promised the families, and myself, to find ways to help stop the epidemic. Most of the families I met through Heartlinks Grief Center’s Addiction Loss Support Group.
The book provides information and details on ways we can help to educate our youth so they do not start taking opioids. Another recommendation from the families to help stop the crisis was to change the opioid laws in our state.
Some of the most heart-wrenching stories of addiction were those children that started their opioid use with a legal prescription of painkillers. On page 31, Ann describes her son Ryan’s initial use in this way,
“Ryan’s drug abuse journey started very innocently when he was 15. We took him to have his wisdom teeth cut out, and the doctor sent us home with a bottle of pills. Opioids. I didn’t know what it was. The doctor said to give them to him for pain, so I did. Ryan told me years later that he LOVED the feeling they gave him. He didn’t tell us that then. But when the pills were gone, he found he could buy them at high school. And he did. He didn’t tell us that either.
The pills were expensive, though, and when he found he could get the same feeling, the same high, from heroin, which was much cheaper, he started using that. He told us years later he didn’t feel he had a choice by then to use or not, he felt he had to have it.”
Ryan’s journey ended five years later in a Fentanyl overdose.
Had Ann been informed about the addictive nature of the pills she was giving her only child, she could have made an informed choice. Several states have passed laws that require information be provided about the addictive qualities of opioids when they are prescribed, to adults and to parents of minors, so educated choices can be made.
Thanks to our local state Representative, Charlie Meier, that change was signed into law in Public Act 102-0608 by the Governor of Illinois on August 30, 2021. You can read more here:
Public Act 102-0608 requires a pharmacist, prior to dispensing an opioid that is a Schedule II controlled substance, to furnish a pamphlet of information developed by the Illinois Department of Public Health and discuss the risks of developing a physical or psychological dependence on opioids with the adult filling the prescription. You can read the entire law at www.ilga.gov/legislation/publicacts/fulltext.asp?Name=102-0608.
A small change, but a change that may keep someone you love from the trauma and heartbreak of opioid addiction. I thank Ann and the other parents who bravely shared their story. They made this change happen.
Many others worked together to make this law possible. Representative Charlie Meier championed this bill in the Illinois House. It would not have happened without his persistence and understanding of the complex process required to go from a change needed to a new law. Diana Cuddeback, Director of Heartlinks Grief Center, provided expert testimony at the House hearing on the importance of the change. Senator Jason Plummer was the chief Illinois Senate sponsor of the bill and carried it forward. If you have a chance, please tell them thank you!
In Illinois, opioid overdoses have killed nearly 11,000 people since 2008. The numbers are rising steadily, and the pandemic has only worsened the epidemic.
Perhaps this small change can make a difference in someone’s future.
Proceeds from the sale of my books are donated to help support Heartlinks Grief Center, a program of Family Hospice of Belleville, IL.
“We Grow Stronger Together”