State Rep. Dan McNeill holds second heroin, opioid forum
After the community’s large response last month to an open forum on heroin and opioid addiction, state Rep. Dan McNeill, D-133rd, held another open forum March 30 at American Club of Coplay.
Opioids include prescription medications, such as oxycodone, morphine and methadone, among others.
“This has become a very important subject for me because we all have kids and grandchildren, and a lot of families are going through this hardship,” McNeill said. “This is a very bad epidemic.
“What I’m going to do is start local and work our way up,” McNeill added.
Some of the speakers at the forum included police personnel and parents who have lost a child to an overdose — Detective Sgt. Jeffrey Taylor with Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA); Donna Jacobsen, parent leader of Lehigh Valley Parent and Family Support Group; Nancy Howe of Grief Recovery After a Substance Passing; and Devin Reaves with Life of Purpose.
According to Taylor, 88 kids from the Lehigh Valley have passed away since January from heroin overdose, as of the date of the forum.
Chelsea Ruane, a recovering heroin addict, said, “One thing I always said to myself when I began experimenting with drugs and alcohol was that I would never use heroin, and I’d certainly never stick a needle in my arm.
“If I had known the turmoil my life would come to because of heroin, chances are I would never have done it. My life became so awful and chaotic I could not stop. I never thought I’d see the day that I didn’t have to shoot heroin just to be a semi-productive member of society,” Ruane said.
Ruane has been clean now for a few months. She is learning to find “peace and serenity” in life rather than in what she had thought she found by using heroin.
“I know the hurt that heroin temporarily gets rid of, and all it’s doing is covering it up. We all end up heroin puppets,” Ruane said.
Ruane encouraged parents to educate themselves on heroin and opioid addiction and emphasized it is a disease that does not define the individual.
“I’m not a bad person because I shoot heroin. I’m a good person with a very bad chronic disease,” Ruane said.
Although Ruane has been clean for some time, she still believes it’s going to take a while to forgive herself — “for allowing my mom to find me dead and fight for my life, to breathe for me for 20 minutes.
“I will not be a shell and or a puppet to this drug,” Ruane confirmed. “I will not let it win.”
Sarah McCann, a recovering addict who lives in New York, said there is help available and if you ask for it.
“You don’t need to go to a rehab to get into a 12-step program. You don’t need to lose everything in order to get help, and you definitely don’t need to lose your life to this disease,” McCann affirmed.
McCann said the past few months have a been a very happy time for her, realizing she could be happy without getting high.
“It turns out I didn’t really know what true happiness was,” McCann said.
“Some days are harder than others,” she said, adding she is appreciating individuals and things she used to take for granted.
McNeill said he wants to keep the conversation going forward.
“We need money from the governors,” he said, “and we must reach out to politicians, which is really tough right now because they are fighting tough budgets.
“Nobody wants to outlive their children,” McNeill said.