Parents Across U.S. Use Grassroots Advocacy To Help Heroin Addicts

By Victoria Kim 10/12/15

Some parents of addicts have taken matters into their own hands.

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Across the country, parents affected by heroin addiction are dedicating their time and energy to making a change, the Washington Post reports.

One example is Tonia Ahern. Her son has battled heroin addiction for years. Faced with her son’s heroin addiction, she did some research and found the New Jersey Parent to Parent Coalition, founded by four women, three of whom lost a child to an overdose.

Empowered by the realization that thousands of other families were going through a similar situation, Ahern began advocating for the widespread use of naloxone in New Jersey. She is now a steady presence at the state capitol, where she lobbies legislators to devote more resources to treatment, forgoing a full-time job because helping families of people using heroin is a full-time job in itself.

Ahern provides round the clock support for addicts and their parents, helping them navigate the world of drug treatment and the criminal justice system. She fields phone calls, text messages, and emails from parents “all day long” seeking guidance on how to help their heroin-addicted children. Her son is now doing well and hasn’t used in months.

Another mother, Felicia Miceli of Medina, Ill., was “shocked” at the lack of information available. Her son, Louie, died of a heroin overdose at age 24. Another son is in recovery from heroin addiction. A month after Louie died, Miceli established the Louis Theodore Miceli Heroin Awareness and Support Foundation, a nonprofit that connects recovering addicts with schools, where they talk about the dangers of heroin. The foundation helps Miceli “channel the grief that I feel” about her own experience.

Minnesota mom, Judy Rummler, established the grassroots organization, Fed Up!, after her son died of an overdose. At the time, Rummler was unaware of the extent of the opioid overdose epidemic. But she is now dedicated to lobbying local and federal government in memory of her son. So far, she has spearheaded a Good Samaritan law in Minnesota named after her son. The law limits liability and provides criminal immunity for people who call the police if they are with someone who has overdosed.

“It’s enabled people to feel or to understand that it’s okay to talk about this,” Rummler said. “It used to be swept under the rug. The more of us that speak out ... people will know that this can happen to anybody.”

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Victoria is interested in anything that has to do with how mind-altering substances impact society. Find Victoria on LinkedIn or Tumblr