As we are about to close the year in 2018, in reflection, I look forward and back.
I started advocating in 2009 to amend laws that aid those who are afflicted with SUD (Substance Use Disorder). This came about through personal experiences with my daughter, Jennifer Reynolds addiction for thirteen years and her premature overdose death January 15, 2009 at age 29 years in Pinellas County, Largo, Florida. It was a life changing, grueling, extremely painful ordeal. Parents don’t have a handbook when addiction takes control of their child’s life. Their addiction also takes control of a parents life, too. The situation magnifies if the addicted son or daughter has a child/children dependent on their sole care. A parents fear is doubled (not only for their child’s life but for their grandchild’s welfare as well.)
It is a life and death crisis of disfunction, insanity and living with the “fight or flight” mode becomes the “new” normal. It’s not until later on, you step back and see how it all takes a toll on the family, especially the mothers who fight to save them.
After almost ten years of advocating for treatment, recovery, intervention laws (statewide and federal) and advocating for grandparents rights, and substance prevention and education in schools, I made the decision to close this part of the mission that God had given me to do. I’m confident a new mission will emerge in 2019…..
What has not changed during the ten years of advocating (according the CDC) is the steady climbing rate of overdose deaths.
According to preliminary data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 72,000 people in the US are predicted to have died from drug overdoses in 2017 — nearly 200 a day. That’s up from 2016, which was already a record year in which roughly 64,000 people in the US died from overdoses. At least two-thirds of drug overdose deaths in 2016 and 2017 were linked to opioids. That means drug overdoses in 2017 killed more people than guns, car crashes, or HIV/AIDS ever killed in a single year in the US.
Fentanyl ( a narcotic/ controlled substance) has driven the overdose death rate even higher. Also climbing is the number of children who have entered the Foster Care System due to addicted parents who cannot care for them. Also climbing is the number of Grandparents and Grandchildren who are cut off from one another due to circumstances stemming from an addicted parent or the parents overdose death. (This also happened to my grandson and us (his loving grandparents who cared for him as legal guardians, his first 5 1/2 years of life). All of these situations are now common…..
Addicted children, overdose deaths, foster care children, alienated grandchildren & grandparents….. it all baffles the mind and it seems there are no answers for the growing plague in America.
What is the good news in this mania? I am seeing more awareness for those with a substance use disorder. I see more attention from lawmakers on what’s not working, ie: mass incarceration for those with a substance use disorder may not be the answer and explore adding more funding for treatment programs for those addicted and incarcerated), more education is available for Naloxone training and distribution, and more attention is being given to Youth Substance Prevention (one close to my heart). I see more (much needed) Parent Support Groups popping up in communities and PDM (Prescription Drug Monitoring) implementation.
— Everyone thinks they have the “answer” but no one person has the magic bullet answer to the opioid epidemic.
I have witnessed many non-for-profit organizations “sprouted” over the past ten years. I find it unsettling and frankly, disturbing, that some of these 501-c3 are also “paid lobbyists”. This doesn’t sit well with me. Perhaps because I am a volunteer advocate for The Jennifer Act ministry and never accept money for the mission.
I do pray as we enter a new year in 2019, we are looking back with an objective mind and look forward to what improvements are still to be had to address the life threatening drug epidemic.
This holiday season, I extend my heartfelt love to all the parents I have met who have lost their child to overdose, as we share the pain of grieving hearts. I send my prayers to all grandchildren and grandparents who are separated and alienated from one another, this holiday season.
To those in bondage of addiction, I pray you open your heart to God and reach up to Him, even if your faith is as small as a mustard seed.
To God, I ask for an outpouring of your mercy and grace to us all. We are limited in knowledge but you, Lord, are the great “I am” and “all knowing”. May we seek you and rest…..
Merry Christmas to all —
Founder of The Jennifer Act
Jennifer Reynolds Mother