ONE YEAR LATER: Addiction Campuses Asks “Where Are They Now?”

An Update on the Progress of the Southeastern States

(July 13, 2016) – Over a year ago, Addiction Campuses took to the streets to bring you the most up-to-the-minute, detailed accounts of our nation’s drug epidemic state by state. We spoke with the nation’s top leaders in addiction, recovery, law enforcement and state government to keep readers informed on each state’s progress in battling an epidemic that is killing 100 people a day in the United States. This week we checked in with 12 states in the Southeast region to give you a progress report on the efforts they were initiating and enforcing when we spoke to them last.

West Virginia

Happening Then:

  • The Supreme Court in West Virginia ruled that juries can decide whether or not people addicted to painkiller opiates like Oxycontin, Percocet and Neurontin can sue pharmaceutical companies and doctors for their addiction. Some applauded the decision, while some felt it would cause people suffering from chronic pain who are not addicted even more adversity.
  • A federal report released last year says West Virginia is third in the nation for the number of prescribed painkillers, just behind Alabama and Tennessee.
  • Delegate Chris Stansbury (R-District 35), who introduced a bill passed by the state legislature last year allowing a pilot program to administer Suboxone (a drug used to medically treat methamphetamine addiction) to drug offenders in the West Virginia Justice System, held a summit June 1 at the West Virginia Culture Center that focused on drug addiction in the state.
  • Lt. Steve Cooper, Chief of Detectives for the Charleston Police Department, told Metro News that heroin is an epidemic in the state.
  • According to a lawsuit against Big Pharma, over a period of five years, in a state with less than 2 million people, drug wholesalers shipped more than 200 million doses of two popular painkillers into the state. Lawyers claimed 60 million oxycodone pills and 141 million hydrocodone pills (which contribute to the most overdose deaths in the state) were brought into West Virginia from 2007-2012. The largest claim comes against one of the largest drug companies in the U.S., AmerisourceBergen, who is said to have shipped 80 million hydrocodone pills and 38 million oxycodone pills during the span.

Happening Now:

  • Addiction treatment specialists in Huntington are hoping something called nature assisted therapy is the next step for helping addicts in a program called GRo Huntington.
  • The Obama administration is making it easier for people addicted to opioids to get medically assisted treatment in the state.
  • The West Virginia substance abuse helpline has received more than 3800 calls since September.
  • In regards to gambling addiction, select fantasy sports are legal according to an opioin recently issued by West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey after a request from Senate leader Bill Cole (R-Mercer).
  • The percent of children whose parents lack secure employment climbed from 27-30. West Virginia performed most poorly in this area during the past year, with Kentucky close behind. Unemployment and a lack of financial resources can fuel mental health issues and addiction.
  • A few weeks ago, a West Virginia couple was charged with trying to sell their 3 month old baby for $1000. Authorities suspect the pair hoped to exchange the child for drug money.
  • Entire communities are facing the public health risk of HIV and Hepatitis B and C because of needle use associated with substance abuse. According to the Centers for Disease Control, 56 percent of all the counties identified as vulnerable to HIV and Hepatitis B and C outbreaks are in West Virginia, Kentucky or Tennessee.
  • A 5k run/walk has been organized for July 23 in honor of Jessica Grubb, the Charleston native whose battle with addiction captured President Obama’s attention during his visit to West Virginia last year. She died shortly after walking out of a hospital with a powerful prescription for opioids even though it allegedly stated 10 times in her medical paperwork that she was an intravenous drug user.
  • West Virginia has the highest rate of overdose deaths in the U.S.
  • There were about 34 drug overdose deaths per 100,000 people in West Virginia. It’s drug overdose death rate is more than double the national average of 13.4.
  • According to SAMHSA, in West Virginia, about 60,000 adults (4.2% of the population) had serious thoughts of suicide within the past year.
  • About 79,000 adults (5.5%) had a serious mental illness in the past year.
  • Only 148,000 people in West Virginia with a mental illness (46.9%) actually received mental health/counseling for it.
  • About 100,000 individuals (6.3%) were dependent on or abused alcohol within the past year.
  • About 46,000 (2.9%) were dependent on or abused illicit drugs this year.
  • About 83,000 adults (6.1%) reported heavy alcohol use.
  • Among those in West Virginia that reported alcohol dependence or abuse, about 10,000 (11.5%) actually received treatment for it.
  • Among those in West Virginia that reported illicit drug dependence or abuse, about 6000 (13.3%) actually received treatment for it.
  • Although West Virginia ranked No. 1 in the nation in 2014 for drug overdose deaths, the Mountain State is eligible for only a $10 million slice of the $1.1 billion pie President Obama has budgeted to expand access to opioid treatment, particularly medication-assisted treatment, across the U.S.


Happening Then

  • “Heroin: The Hardest Hit” told the stories of Virginians in their own words who have been affected by the heroin and prescription opioid epidemic in the state.
  • Heroin overdose fatalities in Virginia had more than doubled from 100 deaths in 2011 to 239 deaths in 2014, while an additional 547 Virginians died from prescription drug overdose in 2014 alone.
  • Attorney General Herring launched a 5-point plan to combat heroin and prescription opiate abuse.
  • In 2014, 728 Virginians lost their lives to heroin and prescription drug overdoses, up from 661 in 2013.
  • Attorney General Herring’s crackdown on heroin-related cases resulted in removing nearly 300,000 doses of heroin from the streets of Virginia.

Happening Now

  • Kicking off a national tour on opioid addiction, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack brought together the governors of Tennessee and Virginia this month to talk about stemming Appalachia’s drug abuse epidemic.
  • Last week, a  group of 40 people with Native American heritage from all over the country set up a ceremony in Virginia to recognize the long journey to sobriety, and the struggles associated with domestic violence.
  • A man who confessed to a robbery that authorities had no idea he had committed pleaded guilty to a lesser felony charge Tuesday in Spotsylvania County Circuit Court. He said he committed the crime because of an addiction to pain pills.
  • In Virginia, about 46,000 adolescents aged 12–17 (7.4% of all adolescents) per year in 2013–2014 reported using illicit drugs within the month prior to being surveyed. The percentage did not change significantly from 2010–2011 to 2013–2014.
  • In Virginia, about 126,000 individuals aged 12–20 (13.4% of all individuals in this age group) per year in 2013–2014 reported binge alcohol use within the month prior to being surveyed. The percentage decreased from 2010–2011 to 2013–2014.
  • In Virginia, about 6 in 10 (59.2%) adolescents aged 12–17 in 2013– 2014 perceived no great risk from having five or more drinks once or twice a week—a percentage similar to the national percentage.
  • In Virginia, about 30,000 adolescents aged 12–17 (4.8% of all adolescents) per year in 2013–2014 reported nonmedical use of pain relievers within the year prior to being surveyed. The percentage did not change significantly from 2010–2011 to 2013–2014.
  • In Virginia, about 75,000 adolescents aged 12–17 (12.0% of all adolescents) per year in 2013–2014 had at least one major depressive episode within the year prior to being surveyed. The percentage increased from 2010– 2011 to 2013–2014.
  • Last year only about 28,000 adolescents aged 12–17 with a major depressive episode (42.4% of all adolescents with MDE) actually received treatment for their depression.
  • About 242,000 adults aged 18 or older (3.9% of all adults) had serious thoughts of suicide last year.
  • About 239,000 adults aged 18 or older (3.8% of all adults) had a serious mental illness
  • Only about 546,000 adults aged 18 or older with a mental illness (50.0% of all adults with AMI) actually received mental health treatment/counseling.
  • About 484,000 adults (7.1%) were dependent on or abused alcohol
  • About 171,000 adults (2.5%) were dependent on or abused illicit drugs
  • About 388,000 adults (6.7%) reported heavy alcohol use
  • Among adults with alcohol dependence or abuse, only about 29,000 individuals (6.3%) actually received treatment for their alcohol use
  • Among adults with illicit drug dependence or abuse, about 20,000 individuals (12.4%) actually received treatment for their illicit drug use


Happening Then

  • Two law firms filed a federal lawsuit against the state for their practice of refusing medical treatment to jailed opiate addicts.
  • The heroin complication was similar to other states in that it started with prescription drug abuse, but different in the sense that, in Kentucky, prescription painkillers were readily available.
  • The state had several bills being mulled over in the legislature, including a needle exchange program.
  • State funded drug programs had seen several cuts.
  • Since 2005, the organization UNITE had provided 3500 people with $5000 vouchers for treatment.

Happening Now

  • Kentucky is poised to receive $18 million in the next two years to treat addiction to prescription painkillers and heroin under the president’s 2017 budget, the White House announced Tuesday.
  • Van Ingram, executive director of the Kentucky Office of Drug Control Policy, said it’s about time the federal government is pushing a substantial amount of money to states to help with addiction treatment.
  • In 2015, 1,248 people died in Kentucky of drug overdose.
  • Kentucky has been at the forefront of efforts to curb drug abuse with programs like the Kentucky All Schedule Prescription Electronic Reporting (KASPER), which in 2012 mandated all doctors log prescriptions.
  • The Kentucky Justice and Public Safety Cabinet announced today that eight program areas in Kentucky will receive a total of $15.7 million from the state budget this year to combat heroin and substance abuse in the Commonwealth.
  • Kentucky received high marks for its effort to address opioid painkiller addiction, in a report released by the National Safety Council.
  • A report by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that 220 U.S. counties are at high risk for a rapid spread of HIV and hepatitis C among drug users. About a quarter of those counties — 54 — are in Kentucky.
  • Kentucky Senator Rand Paul, a physician by trade for over 20 years, drafted key elements included in the recently passed Comprehensive Addiction Recovery Act (CARA).


Happening Then

  • Arkansas saw a significant spike in the use of methamphetamine last year, making it the most abused drug.
  • Arkansas Medical Examiner Dr. Kermit Chandler said his office was seeing a spike in polypharmacy overdose deaths.
  • The state passed the Naloxone Act, making naloxone (a known antidote to heroin overdose) more accessible to the public, as well as the Prescription Monitoring Act to cut down on doctor shopping.
  • The state began attempting to monitor how much heroin comes into the state, and law enforcement agencies didn’t see an uptick in use, but were paying close attention, especially because of its inexpensive nature versus the high price of prescription painkillers on the street.
  • Dr. Channell said one problem they saw in Arkansas was synthetics and bath salts.

Happening Now

  • Like the rest of the nation, Arkansas is experiencing an epidemic of addiction to opioids, or drugs that act on the nervous system to relieve pain, a University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences professor told a state legislative panel Monday.
  • The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has estimated that in 2013 the death rate in Arkansas from opioid poisoning, including overdoses, was about 3.6 per 100,000 people, or about 108 people. The number likely is higher than that because in some opioid-related deaths coroners may not have identified opioid poisoning as the cause.
  • The CDC has estimated that for every death from opioid poisoning there are 10 treatment admissions, 32 emergency room visits, 130 people who abuse or are dependent on opioids and 825 non-medical users of the drugs.
  • Arkansas saw the highest teen birth rates this year, contributing to the stress of children raising children, which has been connected to mental health and addiction issues.
  • Arkansas approved the Medicaid expansion under Obamacare in April, and were able to keep their uninsured percentage below the national average.
  • The Arkansas Human Development Corporation (AHDC) signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Mexican Consulate in Little Rock after the Mexican government gave $40,000 to launch the program Ventanilla de Salud (VDS), which will improve access to healthcare and addiction treatment funding in the Arkansas Hispanic community.
  • The Arkansas Department of Health announced on Tuesday that it doesn’t support recent ballot initiatives to legalize medical marijuana.
  • Nearly every U.S. governor, including Arkansas’, pledged Wednesday to combat the opioid crisis that is leaving a trail of overdose deaths and misery in their states.
  • Arkansas is known as one of highest states in the country of prescriptions written, with 116 prescriptions per 100 people.
  • Arkansas is the 6th top consumer in the United States for porn, indicating a potential wealth of porn and sex addiction in the state.


Happening Then

  • Prescription pain medicine surpassed alcohol as the drug of choice in Tennessee.
  • Officials laid out 7 goals for the state along with 33 strategies to carry them out.
  • On average, annually, for every person 12 years or older in the state of Tennessee:
  • The epidemic was affecting more women than men.
  • Tennessee was seeing a slight increase in heroin use, but not as much as the states in the northeast
  • The Joint Commission helped by regulating prescribers to not only check for vital signs, but also conduct pain assessments.

Happening Now

  • Whether prescribed or bought on the street, opioid and heroin use are at an all-time high in Middle Tennessee.
  • The 18th Judicial District Drug task force says there were 177 heroin related incidents in 2010 and that number ballooned to more than 1,100 in 2015.
  • The 18th Drug Task Force also says in the last year they have recovered more than six kilos of heroin in their unit alone.
  • The U.S. Surgeon General stopped in Tennessee last month to talk about the persistent opioid crisis.
  • Tennessee could receive up to $24 million to fight heroin and painkiller addiction, if Congress approves the Obama administration’s proposal to provide $1.1 billion in new funding to help treat the opioid epidemic.
  • A report released last month by Vanderbilt University says that patients using opioid painkillers were much more likely to die of heart problems than those using other pain treatments. It found that the opioid patients had a 64% increased risk of death for any reason and a 65% increased risk of cardiovascular death.
  • Death by overdose is the leading cause of accidental death in Tennessee. In 2014, 133 people died in Knox County alone.
  • The Knoxville Police Department told WBIR last month that 26 people have been saved since officers began carrying Naloxone in September 2015.
  • Fourth Judicial District Circuit Court Judge Duane Slone won the Tennessee Public Health Association’s Visionary Award for the Eastern Division of the state, for his work in co-founding the local drug recovery court and his leadership in addressing the epidemic of children born addicted to opiates.
  • Tennessee appears to be making progress in reducing the overall number of prescriptions for painkillers. The number declined by 7%.
  • The Facebook group Tennessee Pain Care for All is pushing for the state to improve its health care system in rural areas, while Addiction Campuses continues to push for more access to mental healthcare and addiction treatment.
  • About 1000 babies born in Tennessee last year were dependent on drugs.
  • Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital Neonatologist Dr. Stephen Patrick has actually found in a group of 110 pregnant women in Tennessee last year, almost ⅓ had at least one opioid prescription during pregnancy for pain relief.
  • In 2012, every 25 minutes an infant had been born with drug withdrawal.
  • About one in 50 babies born in Tennessee are drug dependent. That’s about 3 times the national average.
  • The State Health Department says in the last week of June 2016, 35 babies born that week showed signs of Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome.
  • The Volunteer State ties with Alabama as the most prescribed states with 143 prescriptions per 100 people. That’s about 1 ½ prescriptions per person in the state.

North Carolina

Happening Then

  • Drug overdose took the lives of 1,358 people in the state of North Carolina during 2014 – more than the number who died in traffic accidents.
  • Officials say fatal drug overdoses in the state killed as many as 16 per 100,000 residents in 2014.
  • A Cherokee County Grand Jury indicted two doctors for fraudulent drug activities for 5 counts of tracking in Opium/Heroin.
  • Law enforcement data indicates that in 2015, the Brunswick County Sheriff’s Office, New Hanover County Sheriff’s Office and Wilmington Police Department seized more heroin in 2015 than in any year since 2012.
  • Law enforcement officials tell local news a bag of heroin usually sells for $12-$18 in Wilmington, and that proceeds often support their city’s gang violence.
  • The state’s fatal drug overdose rate jumped about 75% since 2002.

Happening Now

  • Last month the Governor signed into law a bill that allows the life-saving drug overdose medication Naloxone to be obtained at a pharmacy, no questions asked.
  • First responders in the state say Naloxone has allowed them to save more than 3,300 lives of people who had overdosed on heroin and prescription painkillers.
  • State health officials attribute more than 20,000 emergency room visits and more than 1,000 deaths a year in North Carolina to opioid overdoses.
  • The Guilford County Sheriff’s Office has administered naloxone 600 times since 2014.
  • The North Carolina Medical Board has called prescription drug overdoses a public health crisis.
  • Across Mecklenburg, Cabarrus, Gaston, Cleveland, Union and Anson counties, 134 people died from opioid overdoses in 2015.
  • Anchor Allison Latos looked through the 57 autopsy reports for Mecklenburg County and found victims in their 20s to their 60s overdosed on drugs like oxycodone, fentanyl and hydrocodone.
  • The medical board is investigating 12 doctors who are considered high-dose prescribers and 60 physicians who had two or more patient deaths from opioid poisonings between July 2014 and June 2015.
  • Back in March, the North Carolina Department of Health reported that heroin-related overdoses had increased by nearly six hundred percent since 2010.
  • Thirteen of Buncombe County’s seventeen recorded overdoses occurred in 2014.
  • The North Carolina Harm Reduction Coalition has begun distributing overdose reversal kits which include naloxone.
  • Naloxone has been administered more than 3,400 times throughout the state in the last three years.
  • An anti-porn amendment was proposed by North Carolina delegate Mary Frances Forrester, which passed last month and became part of the national GOP’s official draft party platform, in an effort to combat porn addiction.
  • The Aurora Studio & Gallery will hold an open house featuring the exhibit “Rays of Dawn, Growth Through Nature” on Saturday, July 23, 2-4 p.m.  in the second floor gallery of the Education Center of The North Carolina Arboretum, 100 Frederick Law Olmsted Way, Asheville. The exhibit will feature artists from the Aurora Studio and will continue through Sunday, Sept. 18. The open house will include a wishing tree donated by Michael Balogh of Mountain Meadows. Aurora Studio invites the public to add a wish or positive intention to the tree for someone they know who struggles with complications from addiction or mental health needs.
  • On July 11, 2016 Governor McCrory signed a bill that legalizes syringe exchange programs in North Carolina.
  • From 2010-2014 deaths from heroin overdose increased 565% across the state.
  • As a consequence of the increase in injection drug use, hepatitis C, a liver disease spread primarily through the practice of sharing syringes to inject drugs, nearly tripled from 2010-2014.
  • While in 2013, North Carolina Medicaid doled out $8 million to pay for hepatitis C medication, in 2014 the costs rose to a staggering $51 million. The state paid $61 million in 2015.


Happening Then

  • An extremely high number of northwest Louisiana 14 and 15 year olds were addicted to intravenous heroin use.
  • Because there was only one facility in the entire state of Louisiana that provided detox to underage users (CADA), many teens were winding up in the hospital after an overdose – if they were lucky enough to survive.
  • Not only was CADA the only facility that offered detox to adolescents, it was also the only facility that provided detox for adults without insurance in Northwest Louisiana.
  • Also lacking in the state were prescription drug box drop offs.
  • While the number of heroin cases were mostly concentrated to the greater New Orleans area, it was an epidemic quickly spreading across the state.
  • The state of Louisiana had consistently cut drug education, prevention and treatment programs over the past 10 years.
  • Because CADA is a non-profit, they were able to raise funds in the community to provide treatment services to those in need in the state.

Happening Now

  • According to the 2016 Kids Count Data Book compiled by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, the worst state to be a kid is Mississippi, followed by New Mexico and Louisiana.
  • The most deadly states for children and teens are Mississippi and Louisiana.
  • Among the states, Utah has the lowest number of single parents with 19 percent, while Louisiana and Mississippi tied at 47.
  • Louisiana is pegged above the 20 percent level for children living amidst concentrated poverty.
  • An August children’s workshop will focus on breaking down important topics for children in a series of interactive sessions. The free community event is made possible through the partnership between Hope Restored Community Center and Family Plus Counseling Services, a program with the Louisiana United Methodist Children and Family Services, according to the Rev. Marcelle Crow, who helped establish Hope Restored. Children ages 7 to 18 are invited to the workshop, which will be held at the new location for Reveille United Methodist Church, 401 Sherrouse Ave., Monroe, on Aug. 6. They can register by calling 318-737-7939. Hope Restored opened in May 2013.
  • Louisiana ranks 8th for porn consumption, indicating a possibility of higher porn addiction rates in the state.


Happening Then

  • Prescription drug abuse was the leading drug of choice; however, there was a more sinister assassin making its way around college campuses. In our conversation with Daisy Carter of the National Council on Alcohol and Drug Dependence Mississippi division, we learned about a drug called 25-I that left a college hopeful dead, and a 19 year old diagnosed with schizophrenia. 22 year old Thomas Parker Rodenbaugh was found unresponsive at Mississippi State University from an apparent drug overdose. Two brothers, Daylin (19) and Skylar O’Kelly (21), were charged with manslaughter in connection with Rodenbaugh’s death. Rodenbaugh’s wasn’t the only incident.
  • While the 25-I is an acutely dangerous drug, prescription drug abuse was a more widespread problem.
  • We learned that most of the circulation of prescription pain meds was not on the street in Mississippi, but at home in medicine cabinets.
  • The state had a number of initiatives to try to help the problem. Legislation was proposed that would expand the prescription drug monitoring program to surrounding states.
  • Carter’s organization was working with law enforcement to educate the public on how to properly dispose of medication.
  • Local law enforcement was also working with NCADD on setting up disposal locations throughout the local counties – boxes where people can just drive through and dispose of their hydrocodone, benzos, ect.
  • NCADD helped pass the Social Host Law in 2011, which enforces criminal penalties on any adult who throws a party and a minor is present and obtains alcohol with their knowledge.
  • While Mississippi surpassed the national average in illegal drug use just after Hurricane Katrina, it hadn’t seen a spike in heroin like the other states.

Happening Now

  • According to the 2016 Kids Count Data Book compiled by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, the worst state to be a kid is Mississippi.
  • The most deadly state for child teen deaths was Mississippi, according to the report.
  • Mississippi rejected the Medicaid expansion under Obamacare but still got their uninsured percentage below the national average, according to Kaiser Family Foundation data.
  • Mississippi celebrated all-time graduation highs in May, The Columbus Dispatch reported, with just 19.2 percent missing scheduled graduation. In the current Casey report, using 2013 data, Mississippi still stood at 32 percent.
  • The percent of children being raised by a single parent climbed to 47 for Mississippi.
  • Mississippi performed most poorly in the percentage of children whose parents lacked secure employment.
  • Mississippi scored very poorly in the percentage of children living amidst concentrated poverty.
  • Despite petitions from other universities, the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) Cannabis sativa supply is grown exclusively at the University of Mississippi.
  • On Aug. 1, a group plans to start at the Minnesota headwaters of the Mississippi River and travel the river’s length to the Gulf of Mexico – by kayak. Their friend Colin Crumm of Key Development Center in Brighton, Michigan and Hope Center in Lexington, Kentucky, passed away from cancer in August of 2015, and struggled with alcohol addiction most of his adult life. They are kayaking in honor of Crumm.
  • Mississippi ranks 3rd for the consumption of porn, indicating a possible addiction in the state.


Happening Then

  • The organization most involved and focused on the state’s drug problem was the Alabama Department of Mental Health (ADMH), established in 1965.
  • ADMH regulated and funded the state’s public substance abuse prevention and treatment service delivery system.
  • Three cities in St. Clair County (Moody, Pell City and Riverside) voted to allow Sunday alcohol sales.
  • Heroin addiction had not surpassed alcoholism in Alabama in terms of treatment program admissions.
  • The ADMH increased statewide prevention and education activities relative to heroin and prescription drug misuse, and made an effort to increase access to medication assisted treatment.
  • Alabama did not have needle exchange programs, though many states had enacted them in the wake of several HIV and Hepatitis C outbreaks.
  • 22 people died from an overdose of Fentanyl or a combination of Fentanyl and heroin in the first 3 months of 2015.
  • The Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs (ADECA), slashed federal funds to the state’s local drug enforcement units, thanks to the U.S. Department of Justice repeatedly cutting the funds awarded to the state.

Happening Now

  • Gov. Robert Bentley joined 45 other states’ governors by signing the Compact to Fight Opioid Addiction, developed by and released through the National Governors Association, Wednesday. This marks the first time in more than 10 years that governors have developed a compact through NGA to spur coordinated action on an urgent national issue. At the 2017 Winter Meeting in Washington, D.C., NGA will report on specific steps governors have taken to meet their commitments and build on existing efforts.
  • In Alabama, 723 people died in 2014 of all drug overdoses, up from 598 in 2013.
  • People addicted to opioids are overpopulating Alabama’s prisons. 4 out of 5 arrests in Walker County are drug related.


Happening Then

  • About an hour away from the hustle and bustle of downtown Atlanta, a barefoot 30 year old Kelly Camp walked out of jail, with no possessions outside of what she was wearing, with one mission: to be addiction’s worst enemy. We interviewed her. Camp started drinking alcohol at age 11, and it didn’t stop there. By the time she was 13, she was heavily addicted to meth, and started making it. Kelly’s charges ranged from manufacturing meth, possession, distribution to forgeries and obstruction charges. At 25 years old, she had 2 children and even more felonies. September 16 of last year, Camp walked out of jail for the 13th time, with 19 felonies on her record. A report from 2012 had indicated an increase in the availability of Mexican heroin in Atlanta. Camp organized a rally called “Break Every Chain”, in the hopes of bringing a rehab center to her rural town.

Happening Now

We caught up with Kelly this morning.

“I would love to tell you that all the drugs are gone and LaGrange is brand new,” says Camp. “However, for everyone in recovery, another falls into addiction.”

Camp’s organization is still fighting the fight though. They are still doing events to raise awareness, and those events have been very successful. Their drug courts and Sheriff’s Office has gotten behind them and attended these events. So far their attendance has been outstanding.

“We haven’t tackled the entire battle, but Troup County will open its first aftercare center for women,” says Camp. “The building is planned to break ground in September.”

Camp says they will have a very exciting summer. Many churches and ministries are pulling together. They had one event just this week where they gathered to pray for law enforcement on the square. Break Every Chain will hold its 3rd event in October. The name of the new aftercare facility will be Next Crossroads.

“This community really is something special,” says Camp. “The Holy Spirit is taking over this town.”

South Carolina

Happening Then

  • In terms of abuse, opioids were not South Carolina’s most widely used drug, but it was the one killing the most people in the state.
  • The South Carolina Department of Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse Services was working with law enforcement agencies to get Naloxone, a known antidote to opioid overdose, into their hands to help reduce deaths.
  • LEAD, or Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion, is a treatment based program that helps people receive treatment instead of jail time.
  • The actual number of overdose deaths in the state was hard to determine, because coroners had a lack of toxicology report capabilities.
  • Needle exchange programs were illegal in the state.
  • Fentanyl laced heroin trafficked in the state caused a rise in overdose deaths in the areas it traveled through.
  • Law enforcement put into place very effective interventions on South Carolina’s main interstate, but a lot of the traffickers were diverting to other off roads and distributing.
  • Federal officials with the National Advisory Committee on Rural Health and Human Services met in Beaufort to discuss access to opioid addiction treatment in the rural parts of the state.
  • Of the 291,438,514 pills prescribed in the state last year, 14.5 million opioid pills were dispensed in Charleston County, 10.5 million in Berkeley County and 7.9 million in Dorchester County.
  • More than 500 people died from opioid abuse in South Carolina in 2014.
  • Organizations were calling for more community town halls to happen.

Happening Now

  • On Wednesday, the National Governors Association announced 46 governors have signed a compact to help stop drug abuse. The compact asks governors to raise awareness about the problem and to encourage treatment and recovery. South Carolina governor Nikki Haley was one of those who signed the contract.
  • Some South Carolina doctors are throwing support behind a new way to treat those battling opioid addiction, an epidemic that claimed more than 500 lives in South Carolina in 2014. Probuphine, a surgical implant that is placed under the skin on the inside of the upper arm, was recently approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. However, counseling isn’t required and the fact that patients could go 6 months without seeing a doctor or a counselor is concerning.
  • President Barack Obama’s budget proposal would make South Carolina eligible for another $11 million over 2 years to combat opioid addiction.


Happening Then

  • Florida was home to some of the most highly publicized drug incidents last year, due largely to the abuse of a highly addictive synthetic drug known as Flakka.
  • “Flaca”, when spelled with a “c”, is the Spanish word for “skinny”.
  • Certain properties found in this drug are more intense than methamphetamine or cocaine.
  • Flakka, also known as Gravel (a popular term for the drug in Ohio), is very dose-specific.
  • Experts called it the worst rash of cases since the peak of crack cocaine.
  • Manufactured in China, the drug is often sold on an underground internet known as the darknet.
  • Because of the price, flakka is marketed to very poor neighborhoods.
  • A person who is high on flakka may exhibit agitation, aggressiveness, paranoia and delusional behavior – similar to someone high on methamphetamines or cocaine.
  • They sometimes exhibit super strength.
  • Perhaps the most publicized incident with flakka happened last year in Melbourne when officers responded to Parsons and Edgewood in response to a male that was jumping in front of vehicles and chasing them.
  • If someone has reached the point of Excited Delirium (EDS), common when taking flakka, and they don’t receive immediate medical attention, they could die from symptoms similar to having a heat stroke.
  • The Broward County United Way Commission on Substance Abuse noticed an escalating number of deaths due to the effects of flakka, and laid out an action plan targeted at educating communities and law enforcement.
  • A Florida hospital saw around 20 patients in the emergency room a day last year.
  • Between April 24 and May 22, the state saw 10 overdose deaths.
  • Broward County saw the most action, but in 2014 Southeast Florida had 21% of all crime lab cases associated with flakka.
  • Another issue in cutting the supply of flakka is that it is mostly carried by smaller, mid-level dealers.
  • It’s very easy to overdose on flakka because it’s very dose-specific.
  • Flakka can be consumed a number of ways.
  • Because this drug floods the brain, it can take up to 30 days before someone can begin to think clearly and process thoughts again.
  • Flakka leaves its users with a short memory span and it’s hard to pay attention in treatment.
  • While flakka is illegal in most states because of its high potency, the threshold of drug trafficking doesn’t exist.
  • Pressure was put on China to ban distribution of the drug.
  • Experts recommended extra training for law enforcement and emergency rooms.
  • Another issue contributing to the epidemic was treatment.
  • When dealing with insurance companies and synthetic drugs, you can have the best insurance in the world, but they do not feel that it requires an inpatient or residential level of care.

Happening Now

  • A Florida man is wanting to buy and convert a closed motel at the Interstate 71/Route 161 interchange into a residential center for recovering addicts and people with other issues.
  • A new Florida law aims to help those battling drug addiction get the help they need simply by asking for it. Parents hope this could help end the cycle of substance abuse. The law is basically a union of health professionals and law enforcement. The “No Wrong Door” policy opens up a new avenue for users by taking away the fear of getting in trouble or being arrested.
  • Florida already has a law that allows parents to involuntarily commit their adult child for drug treatment. Recently, it’s been a law in as many as 33 states. Legislation impacting civil liberties draws close scrutiny, and critics have underscored the potential for abuse of civil commitment in the case of addiction. However, large numbers of people say they wouldn’t be alive today if it weren’t for the law.
  • Heroin use in northwest Florida is exploding. In Okaloosa County, there have been about 4 dozen heroin-related arrests so far this year. There were 63 all of last year. Five years ago, there was just one.
  • Senator Marco Rubio (R-FLa.) has been fighting for the recently passed Comprehensive Addiction Recovery Act (CARA), saying “We have a major opioid addiction problem in Florida and throughout our nation, and this legislation is an important step to addressing this health crisis that is taking lives and destroying families.”


ONE YEAR LATER: Addiction Campuses Asks “Where Are They Now?”

An Update on the Progress of the Mid-Atlantic States

(June 30, 2016) – Over a year ago, Addiction Campuses took to the streets to bring you the most up-to-the-minute, detailed accounts of our nation’s drug epidemic state by state. We spoke with the nation’s top leaders in addiction, recovery, law enforcement and state government to keep readers informed on each state’s progress in battling an epidemic that is killing 100 people a day in the United States. This week we checked in with six states in the Mid-Atlantic area to give you a progress report on the efforts they were initiating and enforcing when we spoke to them last.

New York

Last year, we took you to New York State where two people had died and 12 overdosed over the period of two weeks in a small town called Oneonta from a single batch of heroin laced with a drug called Fentanyl. Just yesterday, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced $10.5 million over five years to support six new Recovery Community and Outreach Centers.


“Addiction devastates the lives of far too many New Yorkers and their families,” says Governor Cuomo. “These new centers will provide the necessary resources and support to those seeking recovery and will help us build a stronger and healthier New York for all.”

You can read the Governor’s full statement here.

New York State Assemblywoman of the 43rd Assembly District, Diana C. Richardson criticized lawmakers this week, saying $25 million out of a $100 billion budget is not enough to address the issue of drug addiction in the state.


“I found out early on in life that if you want to find where their principles lie, follow the money,” Honorable Richardson told the assembly. “Twenty-five million is a joke and a slap in the face to the cries of the public.”

You can watch her speech here.

Governor Cuomo and other leaders reached an agreement on a plan to combat the opioid epidemic by requiring insurance companies that previously blocked patients from receiving care for opioid addiction without prior approval to provide coverage up front for inpatient services. The bills would also cut recommendations for prescriptions down to a seven day supply, vs. the 30 day limit on them now. That legislation is expected to pass this week.

New York City is currently considering hosting a supervised injection facility, designed to give heroin users a clean place to inject. Proponents say it cuts down on overdose deaths and the spread of harmful transmissions like Hepatitis C and HIV. Critics say it is a form of enabling.

The New York State Senate passed two bills to cut down on addiction among minors. A bill sponsored by Senator Fred Akshar (R-C-I, Colesville) would require health practitioners to educate and receive consent from legal guardians before prescribing opioids to minors. Another bill prohibits free distribution of electronic cigarettes to minors.

Sponsored by Senator Fred Akshar (R-C-I, Colesville), the legislation will require that health practitioners treating minors educate and receive consent from the minor’s’ legal guardian before prescribing opioids.

“Today, parents face more and more challenges trying to keep their kids safe,” says Senator Akshar. “These measures look out for our young people and give parents some much-needed assistance in preventing addiction early.”


Last year in Pennsylvania, we told you about a suggested marketing strategy on behalf of drug dealers who were using overdose deaths to advertise the drugs they had for sale.

Last week, the Pennsylvania Medical Society held a news conference at the Capitol, where the State House of Representatives and Governor Tom Wolf agreed that a Special Session of the general assembly should be called to work on the Commonwealth’s opioid addiction crisis.

Special Sessions of the legislature are rare and are only used when the most troubling issues need real change. According to the Society, opioid abuse and addiction is one of the most troubling issues facing the state.

Statistically, Pennsylvania holds the distinction of being #1 in the country for overdose deaths for males age 12-24. They hope to turn that around by addressing the crisis. This Opioid Crisis Special Session will focus the legislature on the epidemic.

In May, the Pennsylvania Medical Society kicked off an initiative – Opioids for Pain: Be Smart. Be Safe. Be Sure. – to help physicians and patients. Included in the initiative are patient education and a physician call-to-action to help both patients and doctors be smart, safe and sure when they need to use opioids.

New Jersey

Last year we explored the New Jersey heroin epidemic, that was killing several in the state.

Since the state enacted a Good Samaritan Law, allowing more people access to the opioid overdose antidote Naloxone, Governor Chris Christie’s Opioid Task Force Efforts have saved over 7500 lives by access to Narcan alone. More in the state are calling for the de-stigmatization of those battling addiction and in recovery, while trying to increase accessibility to the drug.


In Delaware, the state was seeing an overdose about every other day in the state, and law enforcement agencies had placed permanent drop boxes throughout the state to try to combat the epidemic.


The state could see up to $4 million over the next two years to help expand access to opioid addiction treatment, the White House announced this month.

Since last year, 125 people died of heroin overdoses in the state. 83 were traced back to heroin, 42 were tied to fentanyl, and an additional 105 died of prescription drug and cocaine overdoses, according to Delawareonline.

Just this past year, the city of Dover saw heroin seizures increased by 871%. Because of this, the police department has adopted an “Angel” policy, where they will take people into treatment vs. arresting them. Addiction Campuses partnered with the Gloucester Police Department last year, which was the first of its kind, spreading to multiple law enforcement agencies throughout the U.S.


Last year we took you to Maryland, where the state’s overdose deaths rose 95% in just three years.

Researchers at University of Maryland in Baltimore are busy developing a synthetic opioid called UMB425 which is years away from approved human testing. The drug is a pain reliever that creators say has an extremely lower possibility of addiction. Of the three primary opioid receptors in the brain (mu, delta and kappa), most opioids act on mu, which can cause dependence. UMB425 acts on mu and delta, which experts say reduces the chances for addiction. You can read more about UMB425 here.

Overdoses are still on the rise in Maryland. For the first quarter of 2016, there has already been 147 heroin-related deaths in the Baltimore area, with 383 deaths statewide.

Washington, D.C.

We took you to Washington, D.C. last year where we Periscoped the Facing Addiction Rally, attended by thousands, and talked with Dr. Oz about the epidemic.

Dr. Oz Addiction Campuses

The charity Horses Healing Hearts, which helps the children of parents battling addiction through interaction with horses, is now treating more and more children, and is asking for assistance programs like themselves to be included in the recently passed Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA).

CARA, which has been passed by both the House and the Senate and will provide millions in assistance all across the country, has now been sent to President Obama’s desk awaiting his signature.

ONE YEAR LATER: Addiction Campuses Asks, “Where Are They Now?”

An Update on the Progress in New England

(June 23, 2016) –  Over a year ago, Addiction Campuses took to the streets to bring you the most up-to-the-minute, detailed accounts of our nation’s drug epidemic state by state. We spoke with the nation’s top leaders in addiction, recovery, law enforcement and state government to keep readers informed on each state’s progress in battling an epidemic that is killing 100 people a day in the United States. This week we checked in with six states in the Northeast to give you a progress report on the efforts they were initiating and enforcing when we spoke to them last.


We first talked to officials in Maine last year after the state passed a $3.7 million addiction bill. Governor Paul LePage wasted no time signing the unanimously passed legislation from the House and Senate in response the state’s growing number of overdoses and lack of treatment options, and we were thankful for that. However, Governor LePage’s recent comments regarding the opioid crisis have drawn much criticism.

In a letter to the Legislature, Gov. LePage detailed his reasoning for vetoing a bill aimed at increasing access to the drug Naloxone in the state. Naloxone, a known antidote for opiate overdose, is being widely distributed by nonprofit groups, and Bill LD1547 would allow people to access it from state pharmacies without a prescription. In his letter, Governor LePage stated “Naloxone does not truly save lives, it merely extends them until the next overdose.”

Aside from the debatably blunt statement, the Governor is both right and wrong. Naloxone absolutely must be coupled with treatment to prevent a cycle of overdose and revival. However, no one can be treated if they’re dead. While Addiction Campuses doesn’t advocate for any drug, this is one that has been proven to save lives, which is why we are working with groups to carry those addicted to opiates to the next level of a full and balanced life: through treatment.

The Governor also advocated in his letter for ramping up interdiction efforts against those bringing drugs into the state, expanding education and prevention efforts and addressing opioid prescribing practices.

Just recently, Governor LePage participated in the 5th Annual International Conference on Opioids at the Joseph B. Martin Conference Center at Harvard Medical School. LePage joined a Governor’s Panel featuring 6 New England governors who spoke about opioid abuse and actions taken by their administrations to address drug abuse, overdose and deaths.

“The New England governors are taking this issue very seriously, and our goal is to identify ways we can work together to fight this crippling pandemic we are all facing,” said Governor LePage. “We are making progress in Maine, and as far as over prescribing, doctors are cooperating, which is the first step. Second, is to ensure we keep the illicit drug off the streets. Maine is a leader in this crisis, and by sharing information with each other we can improve many – and in some cases – save lives.”

Also in attendance were Governor Baker (Massachusetts), Governor Shumlin (Vermont), Governor Raimondo (Rhode Island), Governor Hassan (New Hampshire) and Governor Malloy (Connecticut).

Maine enacted a bill to prevent opioid addiction and help close the gateway to heroin abuse by limiting the strength and duration of opioid prescriptions while requiring prescribers to participate in the PMP (Prescription Monitoring Program), undergo addiction training and submit opioid scripts electronically. LePage signed the bill we wrote about last year to fund the uninsured and expanded access to detox facilities in the state. That $3.5 million was on top of the $72 million Maine spent on addiction treatment for the uninsured in 2015. Facing a shortage of state police and other state law enforcement personnel due to the recruitment and retention problems, Governor LePage proposed and the legislature enacted bills to increase the number of MDEA agents by 10 and to increase salaries for law enforcement officers by up to 18%.

In 2014, more than 80 million opioid pills were prescribed to nearly 350,000 people in Maine. That’s ⅓ of the adult population taking a pill a day for 8 months. In MaineCare, the state cut opioid prescriptions in half in the past few years by setting limits on script sizes and encouraging alternative pain management techniques such as chiropractic procedures and physical therapy.

New Hampshire

When we last wrote about New Hampshire, there was such a lack of treatment beds for addiction that they were only able to actually treat 4-6% of the population within the state. In the last year, all regions in the state have been busy working on 2 big priorities – identifying assets and gaps in their mental health and substance abuse prevention, intervention, treatment and recovery resources and participating in the state’s Community Narcan Education and Distribution Initiative.

“In the coming year we hope to begin addressing those gaps and reinforcing those assets that we know are most protective,” says Seacoast Public Health Network Continuum of Care Facilitator Dr. Tory Jennison, PhD, RN. “In the Seacoast Public Health region we’ve distributed over 400 doses of Narcan at community education events and I’m aware of at least 4 situations where a life was saved using one of our community distributed kits.”

Seacoast is also focused on promoting provider and consumer education in their region – specifically Project Zero, an initiative started by Jim Moser, a local parent and healthcare provider who lost his son to overdose. Project Zero aims to reduce the amount of leftover narcotics patients have after treatment by encouraging patient specific prescribing and encouraging the safe disposal of unused narcotics.

“We are partnering with Him to expand training and education to prescribing providers and provide education and resources for them to talk with their patients about safe disposal,” says Dr. Jennison. “We have already seen some practice change within a hospital system.”

Providers are writing prescriptions for fewer opioid pills as a standard procedure, instead of encouraging patients to consider alternate pain relief options. The largest increase in heroin treatment admissions in the past year was from March-May 2016 with a 34% increase. The largest decrease was from November-December 2015 with a 14.3% decrease in heroin treatment admissions.

From 2012-2015 there was a 203.7% increase in the number of incidents involving Narcan administration. May 2015 compared to May 2016, there was a 3% increase. From 2013-2015, there was a 128.6% increase in the number of all drug deaths. From 2013-2015, there was a 1472% increase in the number of Fentanyl related deaths. From 2013-2015 there was a 25.7% increase in the number of heroin related deaths.


When we last explored Vermont, the state had just launched a 3-prong attack on deadly laced drugs. Batches of Fentanyl-laced heroin were responsible for at least 2 of 3 recent overdoses near the small town of Randolph, one of them being fatal.

Just this week, Governor Peter Shumlin and Health Commissioner Harry Chen, MD announced that BAART Behavioral Health Services will open a new medication-assisted treatment center – or Hub – in the St. Albans area, expanding the Care Alliance for Opioid Addiciton’s Hub and Spoke system of care.

“Thanks to the great work of the HOward Center/Chittenden Clinic and partners, we’ve greatly expanded access to treatment and reduced the wait list in Chittenden County, but there’s a clear need for more capacity in the northwest corner of the state,” said Gov. Shumlin. “Six months ago, about 250 residents from Franklin or Grand Isle counties were having to travel to other areas of the state for help, or were on wait lists. This new facility will serve Vermonters in need, when they need it and where they need it.”

Since January 2014, the total number of people served by Hubs has nearly doubled, now serving more than 3,000 patients, with fewer than 400 on the waitlist statewide.


When we last gave you a peek inside Massachusetts, the state had over 2000 new cases of Hepatitis C in people under 30, and officials blamed the state’s heroin crisis. They warned we were on the verge of an HIV outbreak that mirrored the one 30 years ago.

Since last year, not only has the Governor’s working group identified key areas in the state affected by the epidemic and put programs in place, but law enforcement agencies have saved a countless number of lives.

Addiction Campuses partnered with the Gloucester Police Department’s Angel Initiative last year, which encourages police departments to act as a safe haven for those battling addiction. Instead of arresting someone, they help them go straight into treatment. It’s a policy that has been proven to work hundreds and hundreds of times over.

Earlier this month Governor Charlie Baker and Attorney General Maura Healey unveiled a new public information campaign to encourage people to call 911 for emergency medical services at the first signs of a drug overdose. Along with Health and Human Services Secretary Marylou Sudders, Department of Public Health Commissioner Monica Bharel and members of the law enforcement community, state officials launched the $250,000 “Make the Right Call” campaign to promote the Massachusetts 9-1-1 Good Samaritan Law.

This law provides protection to individuals seeking medical assistance for themselves or someone else experiencing a drug-related overdose, including opioid-related overdoses, without the risk of charges of possession of a controlled substance.

“With nearly four people dying per day from opioid-related overdoses, our administration is pleased to introduce another campaign to raise awareness and help more people get access to the treatment and services they need,” said Governor Baker. “I am pleased to stand with the Attorney General and members of the law enforcement community to unveil the Make the Right Call campaign as another tool aimed at curbing this horrific public health crisis from our communities.”

The goal of the new campaign is to save lives by increasing the use of 9-1-1 in overdose situations. Make the Right Call targets active users of opioids and their friends and families with a simple message that they shouldn’t be afraid to seek help when they see an overdose. The campaign includes billboards, and advertisements on street furniture and other public environments where overdoses can take place. Viewers are directed to the website for more information on what to say when calling 9-1-1, what to do while waiting for help to arrive, and where they can access the overdose reversal tool Naloxone, more commonly called Narcan.

The use of naloxone has risen quickly over the past three years. In 2015, there were over 9000 incidents during which emergency responders utilized naloxone; up from 5443 in 2013.

“The Good Samaritan law removes a key barrier that prevents people from seeking help in an overdose emergency,” said Attorney General Maura Healey. “No one should die because a friend or stranger is too afraid to call 9-1-1. Our goal is to educate people about this law because nothing is more important than saving a life. We will continue to partner with law enforcement and the Administration to make sure this important message is heard.”

Additionally, the Department of Public Health and the Attorney General’s Office have partnered to produce a “Roll Call video” which explains the importance of the 9-1-1 Good Samaritan Law to members of the law enforcement community, who play such a key role in responding to overdose situations and saving lives. The 5-minute video features public safety officials who have seen the positive impact of the Massachusetts 9-1-1 Good Samaritan Law, and also includes the compelling testimony of one Massachusetts resident whose life was saved because of a 9-1-1 call – and who is now in long-term recovery. The Roll Call Video will be shared with public safety partners in every police department in Massachusetts.

“Opioid abuse is a medical disease, and an epidemic,” said Health and Human Services Secretary Marylou Sudders. “As such, we must treat it like an illness with prevention, intervention, treatment and recovery options for everyone. The Good Samaritan law plays a critical role in allowing people to treat an overdose as they would another sudden medical illness – by calling for medical help when it is needed most.”

Make the Right Call also includes a grass-roots component to spread the word. Posters which feature the campaign messaging can be ordered at no charge by municipal agencies, community organizations, churches, businesses and others by visiting the Massachusetts Health Promotion Clearinghouse.

“The opioid epidemic continues to impact families, friends and neighbors in every corner of Massachusetts,” said Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Monica Bharel. “We must continue to do everything in our power to save lives, and stem the rate of opioid deaths.”

Campaign advertising will run through the end of June. More information about Make the Right Call can be found at the Make the Right Call website.

In addition to the strides made by Governor Baker, the Attorney General and the Department of Health and Human Services, Addiction Campuses has announced a 500-acre, 12 building campus in Cummington, Massachusetts.

Rhode Island

When we looked in on the state of Rhode Island a year ago, the state had made headlines for 22 overdose deaths in less than 2 weeks. The powerful drug Fentanyl was present in 13 of those deaths. Since then, Governor Raimondo has included $4 million in her proposed budget this year to support medication-assisted treatment at the Department of Corrections, and to expand access to peer recovery services. A number of other important bills have been proposed, including bills to support comprehensive hospital discharge planning for patients treated with substance use disorders, and to expand the use of the Prescription Drug Monitoring Program.

This past Saturday, 8 bills were sent to Governor Raimondo’s desk for her signature after a 10 month collaboration between state health officials, prescribers, insurers, health advocates and family members of overdose victims. For the first time, physicians and health advocates are supporting legislation in the state to limit initial prescriptions such as Vicodin and Oxycontin.

About 30,000 people (3.4% of the population) were dependent on or abused illicit drugs in the past year. Of the small percentage that actually sought out help for addiction, less than 50% actually received help.


In Connecticut, we checked in with a Doctor at Yale who conducted a study on the importance of medically-assisted treatment, and found it was very effective in the state. Since then lawmakers have been determined to find ways to limit access to prescription painkillers and increase naloxone availability.

Now, there’s a new legislative push to expand access to treatment and end the stigma and shame associated with addiction. A new bill just signed into law and praised by the Association of Addiction Specialists enables a treatment process where primary care physicians can tap into a network of counselors and help develop treatment plans. It would increase accessibility and communication between the client’s medical care giver and their therapists.

The bill treats addiction like a chronic medical condition. It couldn’t come at a better time. Last year in the state, about 206,000 people (6.8% of the population) were dependent on or abused alcohol.

WASHINGTON, D.C. (June 16, 2016) – When we started the State of Affairs column over a year ago, we saw a problem in the United States – silence. We saw embarrassment, shame, and a proactive mission for people everywhere to convince themselves that “it’s not happening here”. We saw over 120 people dying every day from an opiate epidemic that was in their cities, their communities, their homes and their families. Silence, an act many people forget is an action in itself, suffered a devastating blow when the unthinkable happened. People started speaking out. We journeyed into your homes, talked to your state Legislators, and your communities and found an overwhelming support. Here’s what’s happened in the year we all worked together to end the silence.


In October, Facing Addiction held a rally at our nation’s capital where a host of celebrities and thousands of the United State’s 23 million people in recovery gathered at the Washington Monument to say “we’re not ashamed of our journey”. Addiction Campuses interviewed Dr. Oz who spoke to us about the epidemic plaguing our nation.


While we were there for the rally, we went to Congress and spoke with lawmakers about burying the stigma associated with addiction and changing the conversation in Washington, D.C. from incarceration to hope.


The Obama Administration announced additional actions to address the prescription opioid abuse and heroin epidemic in Atlanta. The annual summit, organized by Operation UNITE, was launched by Congressman Hal Rogers (R-KY). The President made clear that addressing this epidemic is a priority for his Administration. He proposed $1.1 billion to funding expanded access to treatment, establishing a mental health and substance use disorder parity task force, implementing mental health and substance use disorder parity in Medicaid, preventing opioid overdose deaths by releasing $11 million in funding to states for purchase and distribution of Naloxone, expanding public health-public safety partnerships to combat the spread of heroin, investing in community policing to address heroin, tackling substance use disorders in rural communities, implementing syringe services programs, and new private sector commitments to address the epidemic.


Over 60 major medical universities are now requiring students to take some form of prescriber education using the new Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines for prescribing opioids for chronic pain in order to graduate.


Rite Aid has trained over 8,400 pharmacists on naloxone and is dispensing it to patients without needing an individual prescription in 10 states, with plans to expand to additional states.


Kroger currently dispenses naloxone without an individual prescription at its pharmacies in 7 states with plans to expand to at least 12 more by the end of the year.


AmerisourceBergen/Good Neighbor Pharmacy will provide educational materials to encourage their 4000 independently owned and operated retail pharmacy locations to provide naloxone without an individual prescription.


Federal departments are ahead of schedule in fulfilling the President’s directive that the agencies ensure that all employees who prescribe these drugs are trained in appropriate opioid prescribing practices by 2017. 75% of federal prescribers have been trained to date, and have expanded medication-assisted treatment such as TRICARE, FEHBP, Medicare, Medicaid, and the Health Insurance Marketplace.


The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued its guidelines to curb promiscuous prescribing, the agency’s FIRST EVER recommendations for primary care clinicians on prescribing opioids.


The Food and Drug Administration announced safety labeling changes for all immediate-release opioid pain medications, including requiring a new boxed warning about the serious risks of misuse, abuse, addiction, overdose and death associated with these drugs.


The Drug Enforcement Administration held its 11th National Prescription Drug Take Back Day, which has taken 5.5 million pounds of medication off the streets in the past decade. 227lbs. were collected in Williamson County this year when Addiction Campuses joined the Williamson County Anti-Drug Coalition in their efforts.


More than 40 health care provider groups announced a commitment to ensure that more than 540,000 health care providers will complete training on appropriate opioid prescribing in the next 2 years.


The National Association of Counties, National Governors Association, National League of Cities and United States Conference of Mayors, the U.S. Communities Purchasing Alliance and Premier, Inc. announced they had secured discounts on Naloxone and medication-assisted treatment drugs through their purchasing program for state and local agencies.


Walgreens announced it will install safe medication disposal kiosks in more than 500 drugstores across the country, primarily at locations open 24 hours.


CVS Pharmacy locations in 23 states now dispense naloxone to patients without needing an individual prescription, and is hoping to increase to 35 states by the end of 2016.


If Congress approves the President’s plan, the average state will receive $20-$30 million in funding over the next two years out of his $1.1 billion plan.


Unfortunately, our work is far from over. 28,000 Americans have died from opioid-related overdoses in the past 2 years. There were 47,055 lethal drug overdoses in the U.S. in 2014, and the numbers are still coming in for last year.


The Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act passed the Senate in March and the House in May. It is awaiting the President’s signature. An additional proposal to approve $600 million in immediate emergency funding to fight the heroin and opioid epidemic was rejected by the Senate. The legislation tightens monitoring of prescriptions and shifts federal resources away from incarceration and toward the treatment of people suffering from addiction. It also prohibits the Free Application for Federal Student Aid from asking students applying for college grants and loans if they’ve ever been convicted of a drug offense. The bill would also make naloxone available to law enforcement officers.


To contact members of the House and Senate and urge them to get CARA to the President’s desk quickly, you can sign this petition.


In the next few weeks, we will be updating you on the states we’ve covered and give you a region by region update on where these areas were a year ago vs. where they are today. We will not be stopped or silenced until no mother is buying her child because of a lack of resources to get them help.

State Of Affairs By State:


OKLAHOMA CITY, Oklahoma – (March 17, 2016) – We’ve seen it a countless number of times. An innocent prescription turns deadly for 40 people every day in the United States. But in Oklahoma, which ranks 10th in overdoses nationwide, some doctors say new guidelines issued by the Centers for Disease Control aren’t practical, and could do more harm than good.


The CDC has issued a warning to doctors, asking them to prescribe opiates like morphine or oxycodone only when absolutely necessary, recommended they use drugs like Tylenol or Ibuprofen first. It’s a guideline the Oklahoma Pain Society believes will get in the way of treating patients.


“It could be a nightmare,” Dr. Stephen Wilson told News On 6 in a phone interview this week. “It’s what happens when you let the government get too involved and it’s overly stringent and it’s not really practical in clinical terms for most pain physicians.”


But others feel it will curb promiscuous painkiller prescriptions, and save lives. Prescription drug monitoring systems, which provide a database for doctors to check before prescribing these drugs, were also rejected by doctors who called the process too time consuming. A bill was passed last year that requires doctors in the state to check the database before the first time a patient is prescribed opiates like hydrocodone, as well as benzodiazepines such as Xanax.


These types of regulations cut down on doctor shopping, and save addicts from obtaining large amounts of the drugs to support an addiction or even resale. But Oklahomans are also seeking to reduce recidivism in the state.


Oklahomans for Criminal Justice Reform is hoping to receive 65,000 signatures by June to put 2 measures before voters in November. Both measures surround prison overcrowding and reducing sentences for low-level, nonviolent crimes.


OKLAHOMANS For Criminal Justice Reform


Former State House Speaker Kris Steele, who heads up the initiative, says the first initiative would reclassify low-level offenses to misdemeanors. Currently, multiple offenses can result in a felony and incarceration. The second measure, he says, would take the money saved from these offenders not going to prison, and distribute it to counties in the state to fund treatment services and supervision.


“These sentencing reforms have already been implemented in other states that are achieving and even surpassing the projected outcomes,” Steele told Oklahoma Watch. “We’re not plowing new ground. We’re basing policy objectives on what we know is effective and what is working in other states. We’re trying to address the root causes of criminal behavior.”


Steele says it’s not uncommon for a person to steal to feed a habit, or because of mental illness. If you can address the root causes behind the activity, the behavior will change.


“Often when a person is stealing, they’re doing that to feed a habit. So what we’re trying to get at is addressing the root cause of the behavior,” said Steele.


The group has until June 7 to collect the signatures needed to put the state questions on the ballot. Steele says they need to differentiate between individuals who need treatment, and those who actually pose a danger to society. The budget for corrections has grown nearly 200% in the past 2 decades, and it’s still in need of more money.



It costs $17,000 a year to house an inmate in the state of Oklahoma. The average annual cost of an opiate addiction can reach into the hundreds of thousands. It’s free to call Addiction Campuses, and depending on insurance and scholarships available, someone can potentially be placed in a program in less than 24 hours with no out of pocket expense. We ask that the good people of Oklahoma do the math, and sign these measures.

BISMARCK, N.D. (March 10, 2016) – Home to the exact geographical center of North America, the state of North Dakota is also center to a new program aimed at giving more people access to education in behavioral healthcare. Students in addiction treatment will receive relief of their loan payback for up to five years.

The state’s Legislature provided funds to establish the program, which also extends to clinical psychologists, licensed professional counselors, licensed social workers, psychiatric nurse specialists and registered nurses practicing in the area of behavioral health. The Health Department, which contracts with the University of North Dakota School of Medicine, created the program to increase the number of providers in the industry.

This comes after some say a shooting in Fargo last month highlighted a need for mental health care. Officer Jason Moszer was gunned down after responding to a barricade situation in the city. The man accused, Marcus Shumacher, had allegedly been experiencing mental health problems, which could have contributed to his actions that night.

Marcus Shumacher
Marcus Shumacher
Officer Jason Moszer
Officer Jason Moszer

In the United States, there’s a growing consensus that the mental health system is failing us, and stories like this are all too common. On a federal level, 8 Democrats and 7 Republicans have sponsored the Mental Health Reform Act, which would ease privacy laws to let families learn more about the condition of a person with mental illness. It would also restructure mental health programs, elevating them to importance, and change the reimbursement systems so that hospitals could provide more psychiatric beds.

The bill has also won the endorsement of the American Psychiatric Association, the American Psychological Association, the National Alliance on Mental Illness and the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, which Addiction Campuses has participated in numerous events with. It’s unknown whether or not lawmakers in North Dakota support the bill.

Forum News reported that in the last week before the shooting, Marcus had “finally agreed with his family’s pleas to get inpatient help.” Allegedly, they called mental health facilities in several nearby areas and were told there were no openings unless he was a harm to himself or others.

Mental Healthcare is not the only issue affecting North Dakota. State troopers conducted the largest meth bust in their history just last week. A community survey in Fargo found 66% of people in the area know someone affected by addiction, and that’s just those that admit to it.

The number of federal charges related to heroin has soared in the past few years, and overdose deaths increased 125% in the past year. Police arrested 6 people yesterday morning in a drug bust in South Fargo and a deadly form of heroin that hit Chicago last year (China White) has now raised an alarm in Williston. An alleged gang member of the Vice Lords of Chicago was arrested in the city along with 5 others after a heroin ring contributed to one death and 9 overdoses in February. Towns like Williston, which benefited from North Dakota’s economic boom of the oil industry, are an ideal city to sell in.

China White

Police believe China White, a pure heroin laced with Fentanyl, is responsible for the overdoses. We’ve seen this all across the country, and interviewed with several media outlets on the topic. We all know heroin can be deadly, but when laced with this powerful painkiller, the odds of an overdose are much greater – almost guaranteed. Drug dealers are not only fearless of this, they are banking on it. Several officials in multiple states have said they believe dealers are using the deaths as a marketing tool to draw attention to the areas where they sell.

In a mind not under attack by addiction, the average person thinks to stay away from a certain drug because it’s deadly. In the addict’s mind, it is the ring to rule them all – the good stuff, the ultimate high. North Dakota has access to Naloxone, a known antidote to heroin overdose, in its pharmacies, but currently does not have a Good Samaritan Law. These laws allow people under the influence or in possession of a drug immunity if they report an overdose to get someone help.

A number of factors play into what must be done in our country to reduce the highest overdose rates in the past decade. It takes laws that expand addiction treatment and hold insurance companies accountable to cover costs they promise to cover. It takes education and awareness. It takes Naloxone distribution. It takes Good Samaritan Laws. It takes incentives for those in the addiction treatment industry. It takes incentives for treatment facilities to bring beds to the area. It takes a safe environment without fear of prosecution. It takes the decriminalization of minimal possession charges and a crack down on the arrest of predatory dealers. It takes an understanding that addiction is a treatable disease and not a criminal activity. Most of all, it takes hope, and that’s something Addiction Campuses has in abundance.

Addiction Campuses participates in American Foundation for Suicide Prevention Day on the Hill in Tennessee
Addiction Campuses participates in American Foundation for Suicide Prevention Day on the Hill in Tennessee

Fatalities Due to Drug Abuse Hit Record Levels

RALEIGH, N.C. (March 3, 2016) – Drug overdose took the lives of 1,358 people in the state of North Carolina during 2014 – more than the number who died in traffic accidents.

“For far too long, the conventional thinking was that drug addiction was a choice made by criminals who are already intent on destroying the lives of themselves and others,” says Senator Thom Tillis (R-N.C.). “However, we now know that couldn’t be further from the truth.”

Senator Tillis agrees with Addiction Campuses that opiate addiction doesn’t discriminate in his state. It is a disease that crosses every gender, race, and socioeconomic status from CEO’s to straight A students to parents.

“That’s because the nightmare of addiction can begin with something as unassuming as a routine prescription for a painkiller like Oxycontin or Percocet,” says Senator Tillis. “Due to the highly addictive nature of these drugs, their bodies can become dependent and they experience debilitating withdrawal symptoms without them.”

Addiction to Opioids Reaches Full-Blown Epidemic in North Carolina

Once the person addicted is no longer able to obtain their drugs from the doctor, they turn to cheaper and deadlier drugs on their own, and that’s where the danger of the addiction increases. Thankfully, Congress is taking action. Senator Tillis says the Comprehensive Addiction Recovery Act is groundbreaking legislation that “brings together the experiences and recommendations of drug addiction experts, law enforcement, health care providers, first responders and those most affected by the opioid epidemic.”

Wednesday the full Senate considered amendments on CARA (S. 524/H.R. 953). The lead topic was the Shaheen amendment, which proposed emergency spending to address the opioid crisis, but fell short of the 60 votes needed to pass. Today the Senate will resume consideration of the bill.

“After years of misguided approach, Congress sees addiction for what it is,” says Vermont Senator Patrick Leahy. “A health crisis.”

Amendments considered Wednesday were:

  • 3362 (Feinsetein), which gives the Justice Department additional tools to combat extraterritorial drug trafficking – Passed 89/0
  • 3395 (Wyden) – Rejected 46/50
  • 3345 (Shaheen), which would allocate funding to address the opioid epidemic, including $300 million for state programs focused on prevention, treatment and recovery; and $230 million to law enforcement initiatives, including treatment alternatives to incarceration – Rejected 48/47

Senator Thomas Tillis“Opioid prescription drug and heroin addiction is ripping away at the fiber of our homes and our communities in our nation,” says Senator John Cornyn (R-Texas).

The bill would not only expand prevention and education initiatives, but would give grants to substance abuse agencies, local governments, and nonprofits. The bill would also expand naloxone distribution, a known antidote to opioid overdose. It also provides resources to treat those incarcerated and place them in recovery.

“Addiction is a vicious and devastating cycle of abuse and despair,” says Senator Tillis. “It affects us all. The fight against addiction is one we must wage together, and one we cannot afford to lose.”

In North Carolina, it’s something that can’t wait. Officials say fatal drug overdoses in the state killed as many as 16 per 100,000 residents in 2014. Every county in North Carolina saw deaths rise, with the most occurring in the mountains. A report from the North Carolina Program Evaluation Division says prescription painkillers killed more people in 2010 than alcohol, cocaine and heroin combined together.


A Cherokee County Grand Jury indicted two doctors just this week for fraudulent drug activities for 5 counts of tracking in Opium/Heroin. In Nags Head, 2 owners of an animal hospital were charged with inappropriate prescribing and misuse of prescription medications. Investigators seized over 200 pills into evidence from the animal hospital and over 100 pills from a cookie jar found in their home. A witness accused them of taking medication from inventory for personal use, and covering it up by prescribing the medication to personal pets. They were released on bond, and are due back in court March 31.

Law enforcement data indicates that in 2015, the Brunswick County Sheriff’s Office, New Hanover County Sheriff’s Office and Wilmington Police Department seized more heroin in 2015 than in any year since 2012. 18 people died from opioid overdoses (5 attributed to heroin). In New Hanover, 24 (11 due to heroin). Wilmington Police Department Deputy Chief Mitch Cunningham says the drug has an easier route to American streets than before because of Mexican cartel control of northern Mexico.

Law enforcement officials tell local news a bag of heroin usually sells for $12-$18 in Wilmington, and that proceeds often support their city’s gang violence. There have been 314 overdose reversals in Wilmington alone since October, most of them through the use of Naloxone. WPD is expected to be equipped with the drug this month.

The state’s fatal drug overdose rate has jumped about 75% since 2002. In 2010, nearly half of the accidental drug overdose deaths in 2010 were associated with prescriptions that had been filled within 60 days of the death. North Carolina has on average 97 painkiller prescriptions written per 100 people, the 13th highest in the United States, according to the CDC. The North Carolina Harm Reduction Coalition reported that heroin was responsible for 246 deaths in the state in 2014.

SANTA FE, New Mexico – New Mexico has lead the nation every year since 1997 with the highest rates of alcohol-related traffic deaths. 12,268 cases of DWI went through its courts in 2014, and more alcohol-related deaths take place there than in any other state at 51 per 100,000 people. From 2006-2010, excessive use of alcohol cut the average New Mexican’s life expectancy by 11% annually. Nationally, drinking leads to about 88,000 deaths a year and shortens the lives of those who die by about 30 years.


Last week New Mexico State Police in Thoreau arrested Elbert Smith, 37, of Crownpoint after blowing .40 on a breath test. Police say Mr. Smith had multiple open containers of alcohol inside his vehicle and displayed signs of impairment during sobriety tests. Smith was taken for medical clearance due to his excessive alcohol level, and was later booked in the Cibola County Detention Center on charges of DWI, Open Container of Alcohol, Vehicle to be Registered and No Insurance.


To find out how drunk someone has to be to surpass a blood alcohol level of .40, we looked into what happens to the body after a person has 1, 5 or 15 drinks.


After a drink is swallowed, the alcohol is rapidly absorbed into the blood (20% through the stomach and 80% through the small intestine), with effects felt within 5-10 minutes after drinking. It usually peaks in the blood after 30-90 minutes and is carried through all the organs of the body. According to informational website (an acronym for “Be Responsible About Drinking), here’s what happens to the body at various amounts of intoxication:


.02-.03 BAC: No loss of coordination, slight euphoria and loss of shyness. Depressant effects are not apparent. Mildly relaxed and maybe a little lightheaded.


.04-.06 BAC: Feeling of well-being, relaxation, lower inhibitions, sensation of warmth. Euphoria. Some minor impairment of reasoning and memory, lowering of caution. Behavior may become exaggerated and emotions intensified (good emotions are better, bad emotions are worse).


.07-.09 BAC: Slight impairment of balance, speech, vision, reaction time and hearing. Euphoria. Judgement and self-control are reduced, and caution, reason and memory are impaired. .08 is legally impaired and it is illegal to drive at this level. Someone will probably believe that they are functioning better than they are.


.10-.125 BAC: Significant impairment of motor coordination and loss of good judgement. Speech may be slurred; balance, vision, reaction time and hearing will be impaired. Euphoria.


.13-.15 BAC: Gross motor impairment and lack of physical control. Blurred vision and major loss of balance. Euphoria is reduced and dysphoria (anxiety, restlessness) is beginning to appear. Judgement and perception are severely impaired.


.16-.19 BAC: Dysphoria predominates, nausea may appear. The drinker has the appearance of a “sloppy drunk”.


.20 BAC: Feeling dazed, confused or otherwise disoriented. May need help to stand or walk. If you injure yourself, you may not feel the pain. Some people experience nausea and vomiting at this level. The gag reflex is impaired and you can choke if you do vomit. Blackouts are likely at this level, so you may not remember what has happened.


.25 BAC: All mental, physical and sensory functions are severely impaired. Increased risk of asphyxiation from choking on vomit and of seriously injuring yourself by falls or other accidents.


.30 BAC: STUPOR. You have little comprehension of where you are. You may pass out suddenly and be difficult to awaken.


.35 BAC: Coma is possible. This is the level of surgical anesthesia.


.40 BAC: Onset of coma, and possible death due to respiratory arrest.


In a country that is subjected to over $4 billion in alcohol advertising each year, the state saw 1,268 deaths in the past decades due to alcohol-related crashes alone, and most were between the ages of 21-34.

STATE OF AFFAIRS: One in 4 Children on Nebraska Indian Reservation Born with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome

Four Stores Sell Nearly 4 Million Cans of Beer Annually


LINCOLN, Nebraska – According to a recent report, it’s estimated that one out of every 4 children on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in the Cornhusker State are born with fetal alcohol syndrome. That’s in comparison to an estimated one in every 100 nationally. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say about 3.3 million females in the U.S. between the ages of 15-44 are drinking and sexually active, but not using birth control to prevent pregnancy. Recently, the CDC recommended all women avoid alcohol unless they’re using contraceptives.


While Pine Ridge is an officially “dry” reservation, alcoholism rates are estimated at over 80%, and right next door in Whiteclay, each of the 4 stores sell an estimated 1 million cans of beer annually. Last year, 38 million barrels of Bud Light were sold in the U.S., which equates to one out of every 5 beers sold.

NEBRASKA Pine Ridge Alcoholism

Activists have been calling for the stores to be shut down because of the alcoholism rates on the reservation for nearly two decades, and claim the stores are preying on the reservation because it cannot legally be consumed there. The stores have been accused of selling to drunk customers, and selling beer on credit in exchange for food stamps or sex.


The Pine Ridge Indian Reservation are not the only group of Native Americans under attack. Hepatitis C infection rates among the Cherokee Nation are nearly 5 times higher than any other racial or ethnic group in the U.S., and experts attribute the high rates largely to intravenous drug use. Cherokee officials in Oklahoma have begun working with Universities and State Departments to implement a Hep C elimination program. Last year the FDA approved a new class of medications for the diagnosis which have a 90% cure rate. So far, the program has treated nearly 300 Hep C patients, and 96% of those are now cured.


The Lincoln Star Journal reported that because of the state’s inadequate prescription tracking system, people from 38 states (including around 300 from Florida) come to Nebraska to fill their prescriptions for narcotics. Pain specialists in the state often give patients MRIs or CT scans to see if indications of pain match up with the tests. Experts say patients addicted will show psychosomatic pains that don’t match their physical condition.


The State Department of Health and Human Services reported that from January to July of last year, 84 drug overdose deaths were reported, and the majority of them were caused by opioids.

NEBRASKA Fetal Alcohol Syndrome

While most of Nebraska as a whole has drug and alcoholism stats that are below the national average, the state accounts for 1% of the calls nationwide into the Addiction Campuses call center. The calls are split, with around 50% naming alcohol as their primary drug of choice, while the other half battle heroin or other opiates.


In Nebraska, over one in 5 high school students reported drinking alcohol in the past month, which is close to the national average of 20.8%. Binge drinking for adults, however, was higher than the national average. 20.3% of grown ups in the state reported binge drinking within the last month. Nebraska adults were more likely than the rest of the nation to operate a motor vehicle while under the influence, at 2.5%.


Depression is on the rise as well in the state. One in 15 reported a battle with the mental illness last year, and 220 deaths were attributed to suicide in Nebraska.


The Presidential campaign has taken up drug use in general to fight opiate addiction, especially since New Hampshire demanded help. Many people, and even candidates on both sides of the political aisle, are calling for the legalization of marijuana in order to fight the opioid epidemic. Addiction Campuses will be monitoring the situation on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation and keep you updated on the issues that affect addiction and treatment not only in Nebraska, but in the rest of the country.

WASHINGTON, D.C. – New data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that opioids were involved in 28,648 deaths in 2014. According to the White House, between 2002-2013, the number of heroin-related deaths in America nearly quadrupled.


The President announced Tuesday a proposal that would invest $1.1 billion in the 2017 budget proposal to address the epidemic.


“We need to take more action,” National Drug Control Policy Director Michael Botticelli said Tuesday. “There is a significant interest in helping to deal with this issue. Resources are part of the equation.”


According to the White House Press Office, the President’s proposal takes a 2-pronged approach. It includes $1 billion in new mandatory funding over 2 years to expand access to treatment for prescription drug abuse and heroin use.


PRESIDENT OBAMA budget for addiction epidemic


“This funding will boost efforts to help individuals with an opioid use disorder seek treatment, successfully complete treatment and sustain recovery,” says Simone Leiro, an intern in the President’s Office of Digital Strategy.


The funding will include:

  • $920 million to support cooperative agreements with states to expand access to medication-assisted treatment for opioid use disorders. According to the White House, States will receive funds based on the severity of the epidemic and on the strength of their strategy to respond to it.
  • $50 million in National Health Service Corps. funding to expand access to substance use treatment providers. According to the White House, this funding will help support approximately 700 health providers who can administer substance use disorder treatment services.
  • $30 million to evaluate the effectiveness of treatment programs employing medication-assisted treatment under real-world conditions.


According to the White House, the budget proposal also contains $500 million to continue efforts with the Departments of Justice and Health and Human Services to expand state-level prescription drug overdose strategies.


“This proposal will not only expand access to help people start treatment, but help them successfully complete it and sustain their recovery,” says Leiro. “It will fund education, prevention, drug monitoring programs, and law enforcement efforts to keep illegal drugs out of our communities.”


OBAMA Tweet about addiction


Bill Piper, Director of the Drug Policy Alliance, says the President’s strategy takes “one step forward” and “two steps back”.


“Half of what they’re doing is right – the focus on health and overdose prevention,” Piper tells Truthout Magazine. “But the other half, the side that focuses on the failed arrest and incarceration policies of the past, is destined to ruin lives and fail.”


One former corrections officer even told the magazine “it’s kind of like putting lipstick on a pig…They don’t need 15 drug intelligence officers. They need 1500 treatment professionals.”
A recent study found that 91% of people surviving opioid overdoses are prescribed more opioids for it. CVS Pharmacy has added Ohio and New York to a fast growing list of states where they will sell Naloxone, a known antidote to heroin overdose, without a prescription.

STATE OF AFFAIRS: Minnesota Authorities: Arrests in Connection with Overdose Deaths More Common

Appeals Court Says DUI Warrant Can Now Test for Drugs

PAUL, Minnesota – The Minnesota employment rate has started 2016 strong by adding about 9000 jobs for the second month in a row, and it seems that’s not all that’s growing in the state. Authorities say there has been an uptick in charges related to overdose deaths.


Police in Luth charged 22 year old Kayla Jo Vranish with murder after allegedly selling heroin to 62 year old nurse Kathy Ann Davis, who was found dead in her home from an apparent overdose. Vranish was arraigned just last week in the case, which took place in November of 2014. With prosecutors cracking down on dealers, three other suspects have been charged with murder in northeast Minnesota in the past year.

Kayla Jo Vranish

Tests show the heroin was laced with Fentanyl, a powerful painkiller 30-50 times more potent than heroin, and can be deadly in even the smallest doses, about the size of a few grains of salt. Vranish’s bail was set at $125,000.


Authorities say that police across the country are attributing the rise in overdose deaths to fentanyl. Fentanyl is a potent painkiller and anesthetic usually prescribed to treat extreme pain during cancer treatment or after surgery.

Kathy Davis
Kathy Davis

There have been approximately 122 reported cases of drug-related overdoses in the Duluth area over the past year. This does not include area hospital or self admits or unreported overdose incidents.


Reports say Kathy’s husband, Andrew told police he found his wife purple, holding a needle and rubber tourniquet. Police made the connection to Vranish through cell phone records. Kathy, a grandmother, earned her LPN Degree from St. Scholastica and worked at St. Mary’s Hospital. Her husband was reportedly aware of her heroin addiction, and had been trying to urge her to stop.


The Carlton County Sheriff’s Department also assisted in an overdose death investigation which ultimately led to charges of 3rd degree murder last year. In that case, Robert Todd Ferguson, 51, of Cloquet, was arrested in the City of Cloquet based on allegations that Ferguson provided a Fentanyl patch to his daughter’s boyfriend Paul Duane Mrosla, 25, who died January 15 of an apparent overdose.

Robert Ferguson
Robert Ferguson

Meanwhile, a State Appeals Court ruled last week that police can not only test blood alcohol levels with a DWI warrant, but that also gives them the right to test for drugs. This comes after multiple cases of DWI that were thrown out after no alcohol was found in their system. With the increasing use of prescription opioids and other drugs, the test is a necessary step in driver safety, as the issue has evolved from simply alcohol-related crashes and stops.


The Minnesota Chippewa Tribe recently met for several hours with Senator Al Franken (D-MN) to discuss opiate abuse and talk to him about the issue, which has plagued reservations. According to the tribe, Senator Franken agreed with them that a culturally based treatment center in the state could assist lawmakers as they look to partner with tribes.


The Band’s Health and Human Services Commissioner, Sam Moose, was at the meeting and said that Senator Franken was “interested in finding a solution and he said that tribes would be a part of that solution”.


Addiction Campuses met Senator Franken, a 5 time Emmy winner from his work on the popular series Saturday Night Live, and writer of the movie “When A Man Loves a Woman” – a serious take on the family disease of addiction, in October of last year. He is currently working on his own memoir, which is currently untitled and scheduled for release in 2017.

Maine Passes $3.7 Million Addiction Bill

Bipartisan Effort Grows to Fight Epidemic


AUGUSTA, Maine – Governor Paul LePage wasted no time signing a bill unanimously passed by the state House and Senate Tuesday, in response to Maine’s growing number of overdoses and lack of treatment options.


“I’m pleased the House and Senate incorporated the common-sense recommendations of the minority report,” said Governor LePage. “I had expressed concerns about funding sources and the grant-making authority, but I thank the legislative leadership for their willingness to broker changes that both the administration and the legislature could support. To be clear, this bill is just the first step in a process that needs a much more comprehensive approach.”


LePage signed the bill, which includes $1.2 million for 10 new positions at the Maine Drug Enforcement Agency and $2.5 million for addiction treatment, just hours after it was passed. The MDEA has a growing need for agents with the number of heroin traffickers making their way in and out of the state to supply the demand for it.

MAINE heroin epidemic

The bill also sets aside nearly $1 million for a new drug detox center in the state, and around $800,000 to fund treatment for those who don’t have insurance. But where will the money come from?


Reserves from the Gambling Control Board will fund $781,000 for the extra MDEA agents, and $2.5 million will be funded from the Medical Uses of Marijuana Fund, which collects fees from marijuana dispensaries in the state.


In a display of bipartisanship and unity, not a single member of the Senate or the House voted no on the bill, brought forth by Senator Michael Thibodeau (R-Maine) and Representative Mark Eves (D-Maine).


“If we had failed, that would have sent a much different message,” Senator Thibodeau told the Portland Press Herald. “I’m incredibly proud of this institution and each and every one of you for working on this.”


“Defying the skeptics,” said Representative Eves. “I want to thank Maine Senate President Michael Thibodeau for sponsoring this important bipartisan legislation to begin addressing the drug crisis in our state. The legislature unanimously passed it today. Our work continues, together.”


Critics of the bill say it’s a paltry amount of money in comparison to Maine’s drug problem, and no money was set aside for methadone, buprenorphine assisted treatment. A report by Stateline showed that roughly ⅔ of our nation’s medical clinics do not offer addiction treatment, insurance often doesn’t cover it. Only about ⅕ of the people who could benefit from medically-assisted treatment can benefit from it.

MAINE heroin epidemic overdoses

Maine had over 208 overdose deaths in 2014, and, as of September of 2015, had 174, putting it on track to surpass that number. Maine lost 71 people to heroin in the first 3 quarters of last year.


We applaud Maine for their bipartisan efforts, and for recognizing the need in their state. It’s a start, but it’s not enough. Until emergency legislation is passed on a federal level to hold insurance companies accountable and meet the needs to combat a constantly growing epidemic, our country is still waiting all too patiently while those around us fight for their life.

STATE OF AFFAIRS: Iowa Sees 762 Drug Overdose ER Visits

44 Deaths from Opioid Overdose


DES MOINES, Iowa – With the Iowa caucuses just weeks away, Presidential hopefuls are converging on the Hawkeye state while poll numbers are watched closely with anticipation. With that in mind, it’s no surprise that Ripley’s Believe It or Not calls Snake Alley in Burlington the most crooked street in the world. After all, if anyone knows crooked, it’s a politician right? But one thing we do know is that mental health care reform and working to fight America’s drug epidemic is a bipartisan effort. We’ve seen both sets of hands reaching across the political aisle in an effort to discuss what needs to be done.


What many don’t know is that in 2013, Iowa saw 762 drug overdose emergency room visits and 44 deaths from opioid overdose, compared with 36 in 2012 and 10 in 2005. 44 deaths is about 1.4 per 100,000. Over the past 20 years, drug overdose has become the leading cause of injury and death in the United States.


Nearly 7000 people are treated in emergency rooms each day for drug abuse, and over 100 of those die. The highest percentage of those misusing prescription painkillers like Oxycodone, hydrocodone, morphine and codeine are people between the ages of 18 to 25.


The state health department received a grant back in October from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) for $3 million to help fund decreasing substance abuse, and expand the state’s medication assisted treatment services.


“These grants are in line with the President’s call to bring wider attention to the nation’s prescription drug and heroin use problems,” says Iowa Department of Public Health Behavioral Health Division Director Kathy Stone.


Health care providers wrote 259 million prescriptions for opioid pain medications in 2012. That’s enough for every American adult to have a bottle of pills. Four out of 5 heroin users say they started out by abusing prescription drugs.


Iowans admitted for treatment with an opiate as their primary drug of choice grew from 677 people in 2007 to 1707 in 2012. That’s a 152% increase. 33 people died in the state last year. 19 of those overdoses were heroin-related. Experts say Iowa’s location in regards to drug trafficking plays a part.


“We are at a crossroads of Interstate 35 and Interstate 80,” Executive Director of United Community Services in Des Moines Mike Polich told the Newton Daily News. “There’s lots of product out there on the streets, and it’s cheaper than trying to buy the pharmaceuticals.”


Alcohol sales were up in Iowa 5% this year in Iowa, with a steady increase in recent years. More than $277 million was spent on liquor, with beer and wine bringing in over $22 million in revenue for the state.


Cerro Gordo County purchased the second most gallons of alcohol per capita, with more than 3.5 gallons for each adult over 21.


The state appears to be doing what it can to put that revenue back into treating people. More than $20 million in revenue is expected to go towards substance abuse programs in the state, according to KIMT.


As the nation prepares for the Iowa caucuses in one of the most controversial elections in its history, one thing is for certain: the surviving candidates have their work cut out for them, in Iowa, and in a nation that’s desperate for help.

STATE OF AFFAIRS: Idaho Sees Movement in Fight Against Opioid Addiction

16% of State’s High School Students Abuse Prescription Drugs


BOISE, Idaho – The Gem State in recent years has seen an increase in prescription drug abuse, specifically among youth, according to recent studies, as Recovery Idaho shows its first results since its March 2014 launch, and the state looks toward expansion.


6.5 million people admitted nonmedical use of prescription drugs in the U.S. in 2013, according to the 2013 National Survey on Drug Use and Health. 4.5 million of those were prescription pain relievers. 44 people die from prescription opioid overdose each day in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And Idaho shows consistency with the rest of the nation.

Idaho addiction


The state ranked 4th in nonmedical use of prescription opioids in people ages 12 and older between 2010-2011, according to a national survey by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. 16% of Idaho high school students took a prescription drug without a prescription, according to the Idaho Office of Drug Policy.


But the state is taking measures to save lives in the state. Legislation went into effect July 1 of this year that makes Naloxone, a drug that reverses the effects of opiates, more easily accessible by third parties and removes civil and criminal liability for lay administrators under specific circumstances. It also gives pharmacists the ability to prescribe this medication.


A new CDC report released this year shows Idaho at an average saturation for prescriptions, with only 86 per 100 people. Still, the state does not permit access to clean syringes for people who inject drugs, and does not have naloxone training and distribution programs available to the public at syringe exchange programs or other facilities.


Idaho opiate addiction statistics


While Naloxone is available, the state has not yet enacted a 911 Good Samaritan Law, which protects those who report an overdose from arrest and prosecution. The state does have legal methadone access, and marijuana is still illegal.


There are approximately 6,752 people arrested for drug offenses each year in Idaho, and the arrests reflect the population, unlike many other states. Idaho is 93.8% white, 1.2% black and 5% other. The drug arrests reflect 96.3% white and 1.9% black. Felons are not permitted to vote until their rights of citizenship are restored.


Idaho is one of only 11 states that have increased investment in mental health care every year since 2013, joining the ranks of Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Jersey, South Carolina, South Dakota, Virginia and Washington.


Idaho prescription painkiller addiction


In 2014, the state enacted 3 key pieces of legislation:

  • To require prescribers of controlled substances, except veterinarians, to register with the Controlled Substances Prescription Database, otherwise known as the prescription monitoring program or PMP, upon registration and annual renewal. There is no cost to register.
  • Integration of the Regional Advisory Committees (advisory to the substance abuse system) and the Regional Mental Health Boards (advisory to the mental health system) into a single entity, called the Regional Behavioral Health Board (RBHB), which can accept responsibility for the support services missing under a payer driven system. It expanded the State Behavioral Health on Mental health to be the State Planning Council on Substance Abuse. This legislation better described the role of the State Behavioral Health Authority, DHW’s Behavioral Health Division, and correctly described the role of the Regional Mental Health programs.
  • Legislation amending existing law to revise the list of Schedule III and IV Uniform Controlled Substances.


Every state has its work cut out for it in the fight against alcoholism and substance abuse, but Idaho is taking steps to contain and fight the battle against opiate abuse nationwide. With heroin overdoses quadrupling in the United States over the past decade, every little chip at the stone stronghold on our nation’s addicted is a step in the right direction.

STATE OF AFFAIRS: Only 23 States Increased Mental Health Spending in 2015

Congress Slow to Act on Nation’s Epidemic


ARLINGTON, Va. – The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) released its annual survey of mental health care legislation this week, applauding Minnesota and Virginia as leaders in mental health reform. Disappointing was the fact that even after heroin overdose deaths have quadrupled in the United States in the past decade, many of which included those with dual diagnosis, only 23 states voted to increases spending on mental health this year. Minnesota, Virginia and New York stand out for investing significantly over the past 11 months to bolster their public mental health system.


The report comes shortly before the third anniversary of the Newton school tragedy, which was the beginning of a public outcry for mental health reform. The conversation in politics today is about guns, and while that is an issue of vast importance, our nation is grossly neglecting access to the mental health and addiction treatment needed behind them.


Yet, still, Washington, D.C. decreased funding this year, while Arizona, Minnesota, Utah, Virginia and Washington state passed the top 5 bills of the year increasing spending. Illinois and Pennsylvania still have not passed their overall budgets.


“The good news is that efforts to improve the lives of people affected by mental illness have continued in 2015,” said NAMI Executive Director Mary Giliberti. “Some states have enacted specific reforms that can serve as models for others. And Congress has slowly begun to move forward now with mental health reform legislation. The bad news is that fewer states are strengthening investment in mental health care and Congress has only recently started to act after having been largely absent for two years. Increased focus by Congress will be needed to get final, comprehensive legislation.”


We couldn’t agree more. Only 11 states (Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Idaho, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Jersey, South Carolina, South Dakota, Virginia and Washington) increased investment in mental health care for three years straight, proving that more must be done on a federal level.


Alaska, North Carolina and Wyoming cut mental health spending every year since 2013. After two years of increase, cuts were made this year in Arizona, Iowa, Kansas and Ohio.


“Too much of the public dialogue about mental health over the past three years has been framed relative to violence,” said Giliberti. “The Newton tragedy and other events undeniably have helped to fuel public demand for mental health care reform. At the same time, studies clearly show that the vast majority of individuals living with mental illness are not violent. Tragedies are happening every day. They include people living with mental illness who end up in emergency rooms, jail or living homeless on the street. They include young people whose symptoms aren’t recognized early enough to avoid the worst outcomes. They include deaths by suicide.”


14 states received red flags in NAMI’s report, meaning the legislation was considered ill-informed or discriminatory. The report identified five top bills passed in 2015 as priority models for the rest of the country:

  • Arizona’s House Bill 2488 – establishing a trust fund to provide housing for the seriously mentally ill
  • Minnesota’s Senate Bill 1458 – developing effective intensive treatment methods for people who have experienced first-episode psychosis
  • Utah’s House Bill 348 – reducing penalties for specified offenses involving controlled substances and providing that specified penalties be increased for subsequent convictions for the same offenses.
  • Virginia’s House Bill 2118 – requires state facilities, community services boards, behavioral health authorities and private inpatient psychiatric service providers to update information included in the acute psychiatric bed registry whenever there is a change in bed availability for the facility, board, authority or provider or, if no change in bed availability has occurred, at least once daily.
  • Washington state’s Senate Bill 5175 – recognizing telemedicine as a reimbursable service by which an individual receives medical services from a health care provider without in-person contact with the provider.


More strides:

  • The presumptive eligibility (PE) process changed this year in Indiana. New provider types are now qualified to make determinations. This will help individuals who need immediate access to mental health and addiction services.
  • In Colorado, under current law, a professional person may render mental health services to a minor who is at least 15 years old with the minor’s consent. The new law passed this year allows other licensed mental health professionals such as addiction counselors to render services to minors.
  • West Virginia will now require the Secretary of Health and Human Resources to create an addiction treatment pilot program for offenders in the criminal justice system.
  • New Jersey now requires the Division of Mental Health and Addiction Services to annually prepare a substance use treatment provider performance report and make it available to the public.


One thing is clear: Addiction and mental health is a bipartisan issue that affects all of us. It crosses every racial, economic, and gender boundary. And with only 23 states increasing funding for an issue that is increasing across the country, we need more voices. To contact your Congressman about legislation in your state, click on this link:


To read NAMI’s full report, click here: