Wednesday, January 28, 2015

DHMH Blatantly Misinforms MD Legislature

How can parents ever hope to bring about change to improve prevention, treatment and recovery services in Maryland, when we must grovel for 2 minutes of our elected representatives time to explain all the ways that our Department of Health & Mental Hygiene (DHMH) is failing our kids who suffer with substance use disorder and hemorrhaging our hard-earned tax dollars on a treatment system that has not been effective in meeting the needs of its clients, while DHMH gets hours to present blatant misinformation to 20 of our elected leaders in one fell swoop.

Today, DHMH presented information to the House Health & Government Operations Committee.  Here were some of the highlights of blatant misinformation that were presented today.  
  • Dr. Yngvild Olsen explained to the legislature the difference between "opiate addicted" and "opiate dependent".  You are 'addicted' if you rob, steal, commit crimes, and place yourself in precarious life situations and you are only 'dependent' if you experience tolerance (needing higher doses to reach a state of normal) and withdrawal symptoms when you stop taking opiates. Opiate dependence is not something to worry about, while opiate addiction is.  
  • For example, the difference between an individual who crawls into a bed for a week and goes through 'cold turkey' withdrawal is only "opiate dependent", while an individual who is opiate addicted could never endure and "is not able to tolerate" 'cold turkey' withdrawal.  If they were "addicted" (not dependent), they would be compelled to steal, rob, commit crimes, and place themselves in all manner of precarious situations in order to get their next fix.
  • Delegate Susan Krebs asked Dr. Olsen, "If you are on methadone or suboxone, is that the same thing as abstinence?"  Dr. Olsen's response was "YES!"  Moms --will you please meet me in Annapolis?
So, Moms --nothing to worry about --as long as our kids are not stealing or committing crimes they are not addicted, only dependent.  Dependent is good, addiction is bad.  Perhaps dependence is okay for the rest of society and addiction is not okay for the rest of society.  Did I mention that Dr. Olson earns a living as a methadone provider. So, lets all keep our kids addicted to methadone and call it a day.  They have their drugs, methadone clinics and pharmaceutical companies get to make big profits, and society is spared from the crimes committed by desperate addicts when they can't get their drugs.  Can I count on you to meet me in Annapolis yet?
  • Delegate Terri Hill asked Kathy Rebbert-Franklin (KRF), ‎Deputy Director of Population-Based Behavioral Health and apparent spokesperson for DHMH, "Do we have enough providers at all levels?"  KRF responded that she "was not sure".  Moms --do we know the answer to this question?  Can I count on you to meet me in Annapolis yet?
  • KRF reported that 59% of those who have died of a fatal overdose had at least one Emergency Room (ER) admission to treatment prior to their death.  She stated that hospitals are providing referrals to treatment and that peer support workers are meeting with overdose patients in ER rooms.  Of course, Heroin Action Coalition volunteers have called hospitals in an attempt to provide this service absolutely free to hospitals and have been denied access.  Have any parents anywhere in this state ever heard of this happening?  Please inform your elected representative that this is NOT happening, EVEN THOUGH PLENTY OF FAMILY PEER SUPPORT VOLUNTEERS HAVE OFFERED TO DO IT!
  • KRF acknowledged that the Naloxone initiative was passed in order to equip family and friends of those with an opiate use disorder with Naloxone, the life-saving overdose reversal medication, and then went on to say that all state police and EMTs had been trained and equipped to carry Naloxone.  She referred to police and EMTs as "first responders".  Moms --anyone among us who does not know the difference between a 'first responder" (the person who FIRST notices that the overdose victim is unconscious) and a "second responder" (the police and the EMTs who are called by the FIRST responders)?  The budgets for the Naloxone kits and trainings was supposed to be for US --the first responders, NOT THE SECOND RESPONDERS, who we have to call and then wait on while our child takes their last breathe.  Please meet me in Annapolis this week to inform your legislator about how this is supposed to work.  
  • KRF stated that "county health departments have strong connections to the community" and that the health departments "are getting the word out to local communities" regarding Naloxone trainings and the Good Samaritan Bill.  And where are these "strong connections"???  In which counties????  Can I count on you to meet me in Annapolis on Wednesday or Thursday to talk to your elected representative?  
  • One Delegate asked KRF, "Have you outreached to the Education Department, are the schools involved?"  KRF responded that she "has sent brochures".  Moms --while we are out testifying at local Board of Ed meetings, meeting with principals, holding local awareness events --all without budgets and at our own expense, our paid agency Directors are "sending brochures".  Please meet me in Annapolis on Wednesday or Thursday.  
  • KRF assured delegates that they were "intervening in what works best as fast as possible".  Take a vacation day off work this Thursday 1/29 and come to Annapolis to make your legislators aware of the lack of "intervention", the lack of "what works best", and the lack of anything remotely "fast".  Please!!!
  • Delegate Terri Hill asked "Are there spaces open" if peer support workers In hospitals (who we know don't really exist) are able to convince an overdose victim to enter treatment.  KRF replied "I cannot say definitively".  KRF:  The honest answer to that question would be "NO"!  Moms --if you do not tell your legislator what the reality is --they will not be able to fix it for you!  Your voice makes a difference!  One or two of us cannot do this alone.  We will NOT succeed without you.
  • KRF assured elected officials that "the state has been extremely pro-active".  
  • Delegate Ready stated that constituents had complained (pat on the back to Carin) that the health department had been a barrier to treatment and gave an example of a constituent who had been turned away and told to come back the next day.  He was concerned.  KRF explained that "the health departments are the conduit between the consumer and treatment".  "The consumer must first be assessed by the health department in order to access the correct level of care."  "We have been pressuring them."  Moms --do we all call the providers directly in a desperate search to see who has the next available bed, knowing that the provider will screen our child over the phone and assess them when they get there??  Do we do this because we cannot wait for an appointment at the health department, nor can we take off work twice --once for the assessment and then again when we take our child to treatment.  We know that if our kid is shooting heroin every day THAT THERE IS NO NEED TO SIT AT THE HEALTH DEPARTMENT FOR HALF A DAY WAITING FOR THEM TO TELL US THAT HE OR SHE NEEDS DETOX.  How is it that DHMH DOES NOT KNOW HOW THE TREATMENT SYSTEM WORKS IN THE STATE WHERE THEY ARE SUPPOSEDLY IN CHARGE?  Do they not really care that no one is implementing the policy that they dream up in their fairy tale world of unreality???  Our children our dying and the people in charge of resolving the problem have no clue what goes on in the real world --how their policy impacts us --or whether they have initiated policies that are working --NOR DO THEY CARE.  Because if they cared, they would not ignore us when we offer them feedback.  
I have already been to Annapolis 3 days in the past two weeks.  I am not paid when I take off work.  There were 5 of us there last Tuesday, 2 of us there yesterday, and 3 of us there today.  We cannot do this by ourselves.  We cannot tell your stories for you.  A few of us cannot speak for everyone else.  A tiny band of parents cannot compete with the agency propaganda (as evidenced above) --DHMH employees need to report that they are saving lives in order to save their jobs and salaries.  WE NEED TO REPORT THE TRUTH IN ORDER TO SAVE OUR CHILDREN!!! 

If you fail to speak up, our children will be sent to jail (stiffer penalties is the only new initiative currently in the legislature) and "treated" with methadone --addicted to opiates for life (sorry, I meant "dependent") --much to the glee of the for-profit methadone clinic owners.  Abstinence is now Methadone Addiction???!!   And Addiction and Dependence are two different things??   And the Naked King is Wearing Invisible Clothes!!!

This Thursday, there is a stakeholder workgroup briefing on regulations at 1:00.  

Can you please meet other family members in Annapolis on that day?

Lisa Lowe
Heroin Action Coalition