Senator Tammy Baldwin Shares Mother’s Struggle With Addiction

By Victoria Kim 05/08/18

“My mother had a drug abuse problem. She struggled with addiction to prescription drugs her whole life. I had to grow up fast, very fast.”

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Senator Tammy Baldwin
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U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin has shared many of the same struggles as her constituents who have been touched by drug addiction.

The senator from Wisconsin, who is up for reelection this November, recently discussed her experience as a young child growing up with a mother who struggled with her mental health, chronic pain, and a dependency on “powerful narcotics.”

Baldwin is hoping her story will resonate with voters through a new campaign ad detailing her mother’s prescription drug use and the effect it had on her childhood.

“My mother had a drug abuse problem. She struggled with addiction to prescription drugs her whole life. I had to grow up fast, very fast,” Baldwin says in the ad. “So when I see the opioid crisis that’s wrecking so many Wisconsin families, all I can tell you is I’ve been there. I know how hard this fight is. I know the stigma that comes with drug abuse and mental illness.”

Baldwin’s mother, Pamela Bin-Rella, passed away last August at the age of 75.

According to the Wisconsin State Journal, 827 people died of opioid overdose in Wisconsin in 2016, a 35% increase from 2015.

Baldwin says it’s important to shed the shame and feel free to discuss these issues.

“What good does it do if everyone just keeps their little secrets? How are we going to really understand that this affects all of us? I’ve seen it over and over again, the power of telling your story,” she said, according to the Associated Press.

The senator described what it was like as a young child, watching her mother struggle with something she could not comprehend. It wasn’t until she was older, she said, that she learned her mother was taking “powerful narcotics” to treat her chronic pain.

“As a little kid I felt like I was trying to fix things and I always failed,” she admitted. “It’s a difficult problem. But the more we realize we’re all in this together to help the people we love, the better.”

Baldwin said that as a teenager, she was able to convince her mother to enter treatment for her drug use. When she was doing well, her mother was able to go back to school and get her master’s degree in family counseling. But even in her old age, her mother still needed help.

As a U.S. senator, Baldwin has led several efforts to secure funding for treatment and promote research for substance use disorder issues.

In a statement last fall, while introducing new legislation to address the opioid crisis, she said, “Washington must step up to be a stronger partner in this fight by investing in local prevention, treatment and recovery efforts.

“Our legislation is a commonsense, bipartisan-based solution to address the national opioid crisis with stable, long-term support that will strengthen state and local resources.”

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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

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