Faces of Addictionby Representative Richard E. Neal
Posted on 2016-01-06
NEAL asked and was given permission to revise and extend his
Mr. NEAL. First, Mr. Speaker, I want to call attention to the efforts
that have been made by Congresswoman Kuster and Congressman Guinta.
When Congresswoman Kuster approached me on this issue, I was all too
happy to join in. I think that the perseverance that she has offered in
the early days on this is, I think, a challenge for all of us across
New England, because what has happened across New England now is
gripping in terms of the attention that this issue has drawn.
But I want to call attention specifically to a very important case in which there is an individual whom I had a chance to witness his testimony. At the same time, I intend to quote liberally from the Springfield Republican, which is the paper of record for western Massachusetts.
I want to call attention tonight to a former Ludlow, Massachusetts, police lieutenant, Thomas Foye. Lieutenant Foye had a strong upbringing with supportive parents, a college education, a good marriage, three children, and a long career as a lieutenant in the Ludlow Police Department.
The 50-year-old was a longtime head of the detective bureau and even served on an FBI task force. He arrested many drug addicts and responded frequently to overdoses. He was at the scene of many drug- related suicides. He warned schoolchildren about the dangers of drugs. He was even an official who had been elected to the Ludlow School Committee.
That was, however, until he got addicted to OxyContin pills following shoulder surgery. Two surgeries and more pain medication prescriptions later, Lieutenant Foye found himself admitting that he was addicted.
After trying to quit on his own multiple times and suffering sickening withdrawals, he turned to his doctor for help. The same doctor who had originally prescribed him OxyContin now prescribed him more pills to both wean him off the painkillers and to put an end to his sickness.
When none of that worked, Foye admits that he broke the law and began to acquire pills illegally, taking them straight from his police department's own evidence room. When he was arrested in his office at the Ludlow Police Department in 2013, he was charged with tampering with substances, two counts of possession of a class B substance-- cocaine and OxyContin--and two counts of larceny of a drug. Subsequently, he was sentenced to 2 years in jail.
He said that it was not fear, dread, or panic that he felt when the investigation finally came to a head; rather, he felt relief. He now would be able to get help.
He talks about the police officer who stayed with him in the detox facility following his arrest. ``Some day I want to be that guy,'' he said. ``There needs to be some dignity in drug addiction treatment.'' Lieutenant Foye was lucky in the sense that he survived his addiction and is telling his story to help others. Those who have not survived, including eight people this weekend in my congressional district in a very small geographic area, died from a lethal string of heroin that was identified as the Hollywood brand.
The Opioid Overdose Reduction Act of 2015 would exempt from civil liability emergency administration of opioid overdose-reversing drugs, like naloxone, by people who prescribe or are prescribed them. Senator Markey has offered the same legislation down the hallway in the United States Senate.
When an opioid overdose occurs, administration of an opioid-reversal drug is necessary to prevent death, but it must occur within a certain window of time before the chance of survival is lost. This is a time of quick action, not deliberations or a potential lawsuit.
Every day, 120 people die as a result of drug overdoses fueled by prescription painkillers, and another 6,748 are treated in emergency rooms for the misuse or abuse of illegal drugs. According to The Washington Post, ``overdosing is now the leading cause of accidental death in the United States, accounting for more deaths than traffic fatalities or gun homicides and suicides. Fatal overdoses from opiate medications such as oxycodone, hydrocodone, and methadone have quadrupled since 1999, accounting for an estimated 16,651 deaths in 2010.'' It is time to bring a face to those affected by addiction and stop the epidemic in communities across this country.
I want to close as I started with a note of congratulations to Ms. Kuster and to Mr. Guinta for calling attention to what is really happening across New England now. We need to be mindful of the lives that are being destroyed and the families that are succumbing to this torture over long, long periods of time trying to treat those who are addicted and to make sure they get adequate help.