By SCOTT BRENT
For the Sunday Times
TAYLOR – It was no secret to anyone at Truman High School that the use of opioids is damaging the health of teens by the thousands.
Over the past decade and a half, opioid poisonings have nearly doubled among children and adolescents. Research also shows that any legitimate use of opioids before 12th grade confers a one-third greater risk of non-medical opioid use in early adulthood.
In response to the rampant utilization of opioids in prescription drugs, U.S. Reps. Debbie Dingell (D-Dearborn) and Joe Kennedy III (D-Mass.) spoke to nearly 500 freshman, conveying their own sentiments on the issue.
For Dingell, opioid use and abuse is personal. Her husband, former U.S. Rep. John Dingell, suffers from chronic abdominal pain and uses prescription medication to manage his pain levels. Her sister, Mary Grace Insley, began use around the age of 9, and her father became addicted from prescribed drugs.
Insley died at the age of 44. The congresswoman was emphatic that she did not want the students to meet the same fate.
“We want to help you,” Dingell said. “If you do have a problem, talk to somebody. If you don’t have a friend, I will talk to you. I don’t want you to be Mary Grace.”
Kennedy said initiative from the students is critical, and outlined methods to combat the drug epidemic.
“As eighth graders, you can’t choose who can represent you,” Kennedy said. “Under the Good Samaritan Law, you can call first-responders and you will not be in trouble for making the call. Reach out to senators to take up the bill. We want to make sure that you have the tools and knowledge to not only avoid drugs and opioids, but to prevent another addiction or overdose from happening again.”
Interim Police Chief John Blair aligned with Kennedy’s statement.
“You can come to our station and I promise you will not be arrested,” Blair said. “I need to provide you with hope, not handcuffs”
When asked about the the Ensuring Patient Access and Effective Drug Enforcement Act of 2016 — the Hatch-Marino Law — which in effect blocks the Drug Enforcement Agency from intervening when it detects suspicious sales patterns involving pharmaceutical companies, distributors and doctors, Dingell said she would participate in a hearing next week to examine how the bill was passed in an “unscrupulous fashion.”
Kennedy said the bill, sponsored by Sen. Orrin hatch (R-Utah) and Rep. Tom Marino (R-Pa.) had bipartisan support along with approval from the DEA. He then went on to say that although he cannot speak on behalf of Marino, he would do everything in his power to remedy the current outcome.
Dingell and Kennedy are members of the U.S. House Bipartisan Heroin Task Force.
Shelby Chaltry, 26, is in recovery in the District Court Regional Drug/Sobriety Treatment Program. To reinforce the power and influence drugs have on individuals, she told students how in high school her alcohol and marijuana use led to abusing Vicodin, Oxycontin and Adderall.
“I was in so much pain, and I was putting my family through so much pain,” Chaltry said. “I was seriously thinking of killing myself. When I was arrested, I had a chance to either go to prison or participate in a rehabilitation program.
“I deal with regret every day, regret from the friends I have lost. Five years later, I had nothing to show for my actions apart from the hell I put myself and my loved ones through.”