We’ve all heard that saying, “When God Closes One Door He Opens Another.” God not only closed my door as I knew life to be, but he nailed it shut. After a 7 year struggle with opioid addiction, my youngest son, Matt lost his battle on a bitter day in January 2015.
Life as I knew it shattered at my feet. You see, being a registered nurse, my main purpose in life was to save people. In my job as a NICU nurse, I saved small babes on a daily basis. Every other minute of my day was spent finding the right treatment to save my son.
I never planned on becoming an opioid advocate or taking on an industry responsible for tens of thousands of deaths. After my sons death, my plan was to disappear — to guard my heart against further pain. The last thing I wanted was to live addiction again. As time passed, I felt myself slowly switching gears. My grief turned to an anger I could no longer contain, giving me a strength I never knew existed. I found my voice and a new purpose.
I experienced seven years of struggling against a very broken care system. I watched families go bankrupt and spend their life savings while Big Pharma raked in billions in revenue. I read everything I could about the pharmaceutical industry and their leading role in the growing opioid pandemic. I felt like David taking on Goliath, but every time I looked at a photograph of Matt’s smiling face, I knew I had no choice.
Taking on Big Pharma has become my obsession. I joined forces with
legislators in my home state of Delaware and began working on the Opioid Impact Fee Bill. This Bill will hold the Pharmaceutical industry accountable for contributing to the care and treatment of those they’ve harmed. Pharma knowingly misrepresented a highly addictive drug made for end-of-life care — rebranding it into one of the most prescribed drugs for every type of pain. Big Pharma ignored a legal obligation to disclose the highly addictive properties of their drugs.
On April 24, Senate Bill 34 passed the Senate by a 17-4 vote. On May 8 this bill continued its journey by passing the House Committee. Now signed into law, the bill places a fee on every pill entering Delaware pharmacies. The revenue generated from these fees will be used to provide both in-patient and out-patient (long and short-term) treatment for those who would otherwise not have the financial resources to pay for lifesaving care.
The estimated revenue from this bill in 2020 is $2.8 million and is strictly reserved for the treatment of substance use disorder in Delaware. Imagine the impact this bill will have on providing the revenue needed for treatment and services. When not working on bills related to substance use disorder treatment, I write and speak out against Big Pharma. My articles have been published in the Washington Post, The Hill, and several other newspapers.
I’ve been an advocate in my state for the past four years and learned that advocacy is not a sprint but a slow race that must be run with purpose and precision. I will never know why God closed that door, but I do know a mothers grief can be a powerful tool in the battle against the Goliath’s of this world.
On June 12, Delaware made history as it held the pharmaceutical manufacturing companies accountable for the opioid crisis we face in Delaware. Senator Stephanie Hansen sponsored the Bill and with the support and testimonies of several Delaware advocates, it passed both the Senate and House by a majority vote.
It was an honor for me to be a part of this incredible team, that despite tough resistance from the pharmaceutical lobbyists, were victorious in our goal to pass this piece of legislation.