My son is light of my life – he’s 35, he’s a father, a homeowner, a hockey coach. But he almost didn’t make it there.
When he was 18 and at a high school graduation party, a friend’s father thought it would be a good idea to give the kids some “Oxy” – a prescription opioid – to try. That night, my son and our family joined the ranks of the millions struggling through this public health crisis of opioids and prescription drugs. I saw quickly that there weren’t then enough resources for families in crisis, and I had to do something about it.
That’s why I started a nonprofit 14 years ago called Learn 2 Cope, now has 25 groups in three states. We average about 500 people per week in our Massachusetts meetings and our website’s private chat for families now registers over 10,000 members.
And that’s why I’m glad that Maura Healey is my Attorney General.
Many of us working in the opiate crisis feel like things aren’t getting better. Too often, it feels like leaders don’t hear us and aren’t being responsive to our pleas for more access to treatment, life-saving drugs, safer prescribing and holding the pharmaceutical industry responsible for its role.
But thanks to Maura, that’s not our story in Massachusetts. She does care about our challenges, she joins us on the front lines, and she is responsive – always – to our concerns.
Before she was even elected, Maura was reaching out to me. She wanted to learn more about my son’s story, and my efforts in this crisis. We had been up and running at that point for 10 years, and that was a first. I never had a candidate reach out to learn more and ask questions.
Then, when she got elected, she just took the ball and ran with it.
We are thankful for the support of the Narcan fund to help save lives and for her calls for more access to treatment. One of the biggest highlights is her work on prevention efforts, particularly her efforts to teach young people how to stay safe and avoid opioids and other dangerous substances with her Project Here campaign. We have to get at this problem before it starts – we just have to.
We also appreciate the investigation in to the pharmaceutical companies. On the day she announced she was going to try to get answers from prescription opioid manufacturers and distributors about how this crisis happened and how they can make sure it never happens again, she called some of the families like mine in and just sat with us. She took the time to talk with us because she knew that this was personal for us.
Maura Healey and her staff just get it. They always want to know what’s going on, they are at all the events, and they are unbelievably accessible. You call or email Maura Healey’s office, you get a call or email right back. That says something. And when they hear from us, they act. They step up. That says everything you need to know about them, and everything you need to know about Maura Healey.
They are just there for us.
Joanne Peterson is the Founder and Executive Director of Learn to Cope (LTC), a non-profit peer-led support network which began in 2004.