Friday, April 29, 2016

Clinical Humility

William L. White is a hero of mine. His site is always a wealth of information. A while back Bill published an essay of mine, "Pinball" in which I wrote about my son lost to heroin: "I have recently come up with the idea of writing a letter to everyone who helped treat William along the tortuous descent to his....[death]. I want to ask them whether his death has given them any cause to reflect upon his treatment. If so, what have they learned? Big ideas or tiny changes in practice? What change might they like to bring about so that others might not only avoid his fate, but actually entertain a productive lifelong recovery? My suspicion is that very few, if any, have reflected much on William and his treatment. Given a lack of time or effort devoted to reflection, I suspect precious little, if anything, has been learned. I am talking about good, well-intentioned people who have dedicated their lives to important work. But is it work so trapped in orthodoxy of practice, work so mired in bureaucracy, that it leaves little time for introspection? How much are those who treat substance use disorder just like those they hope to cure, repeating the same behavior over and over? We ask addicts to look at what they do. We need to ask treatment providers to take a harder look at what they do. Or how about, just a look?"

It seems to me more calls to clinical humility are in order. Here' a good start. Thank you Bill and thank you Chris Budnick.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Saturday Night Live and "Heroin AM"

I sent the following response to Lorne Michaels of Saturday Night Live after they aired a “commercial” for “Heroin AM”.  Should you be so inclined his e-mail address is below.  
Dear Mr. Michaels:

The young man pictured below is my son, William.  He might have found your Heroin AM "advertisement" funny. We'll never know. Unfortunately, he was not alive last night to view SNL. This picture was taken on October 20th, 2012.  It was taken four days after his insurance company, Emblem Health and their utilization review provider, ValueOptions denied him the in-patient detoxification services he requested. THERE'S SOME COMIC MATERIAL FOR YOU!  He accidentally overdosed and spent the next six weeks hospitalized before we made our decision to remove him from life support, because he would spend the rest of his life in a persistent vegetative state.  THERE'S SOME COMIC MATERIAL FOR YOU!  Like thousands of other grieving parents his mother and I have had to cope with the loss of our son. THERE'S SOME COMIC MATERIAL FOR YOU!  As advocates in the fight against substance use disorder, his mother and I have spoken to two Congressional committees, a U. S. Senate Forum on Addiction, and at the National Institute on Drug Abuse.  THERE'S SOME COMIC MATERIAL FOR YOU!  You can go here to watch what we had to say at the Senate Forum. It's had just above 5,400 views.  MAYBE THERE WILL BE USEFUL COMIC MATERIAL FOR YOU THERE.  Not the SIZE audience SNL gets, I grant you, but we're working on it.

While we work on increasing the awareness of our audience to the heroin and opioid epidemic that confronts this country; while we alert our audience to the fact that opioids and heroin kill 129 people daily - more than die in automobile accidents; while we remind people that nearly 10% of the population at large (including your staff, your performers, and your audience) has had, has, or will suffer from substance use disorder; we promise to do our best to diminish your audience.  MAYBE THERE WILL BE USEFUL COMIC MATERIAL FOR YOU IN THAT!!  I'm sure your advertisers will see the humor in it! 

We will do our best to encourage the 23 million people in long term recovery to boycott both your show, your advertisers, and your network.  We will do our best to encourage the 23 million people currently suffering from substance use disorder to boycott your show, your advertisers, and your network.   We will do our best to encourage the millions of family members affected by this disease to boycott your show, your advertisers, and your network.  YOU CAN CHUCKLE ABOUT THAT.  We're not.

Consider my television permanently turned off to your show. Kindly inform your sponsors I will no longer be purchasing their products.   Know that I WILL be encouraging anyone I can reach to do the same. When we say WILL at our house we remember a lost boy named Will and we take action. Unless, of course, you try some new material and air an apology.  Allow me to suggest a sincere and well thought out public service announcement. Perhaps something your network could air.  Should you do so, let me know.  I'll be happy to watch.

Feel free to share your thoughts with Mr. Michaels at:

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Letter To The Editor

I sent this to the editor of the River Reporter in Sullivan County, New York.  While a rural area, including part of the Catskill State Park, the county is besieged by drug problems.  New York's legislators are still slow to grasp the enormity of the problem.

In early February I joined several hundred Recovery advocates to meet with lawmakers in Albany. We told our stories of an addiction epidemic that is killing 362 people daily in our communities, stories of struggle, recurrence of the disease, lack of services, incarceration, and unspeakable loss.  At the time I wrote about some of these stories on Medium.  You can go here:
When we met with lawmakers in Albany we were told that our request to add $50 million additional dollars to a grossly underfunded OASAS budget to support Recovery Community Organizations, Recovery Community enters Recovery Coaches, and Family Support Navigators was a reasonable and rational request. 
More recently the subcommittee for Mental Health decided that $15 million in additional funds for the Executive Budget was an appropriate response to the greatest public health crisis the nation has seen in decades.  This insignificant amount of money on the budget table to address the most deadly  (and stigmatized) epidemic to hit New Yorkers since the AIDS crisis isn’t nearly enough. 
My Easter began Good Friday with a phone call from a distraught mother looking for help, trying to get her daughter into long-term rehabilitation.  Shortly after I talked with another mother whose son is struggling to find adequate long-term recovery services.  Both have stories of substandard treatment in Sullivan County facilities. A county where the coroner reports that a quarter of all deaths are drug related.  Today I had yet another call from a mother desperate to find adequate treatment that also meets the requirements of Sullivan County’s Drug Court.
Without recovery supports in place, our loved ones who receive addiction prevention and treatment services lack a continuum of care for their illness.  This means that when they return to our communities sustained recovery from the disease of addiction becomes extremely difficult – their disease reoccurs, they may break the law or even die.  The broken system is a setup for failure!  We must invest in the infrastructure of recovery supports.
It’s easy to give well-meaning but empty platitudes to a distraught mother or father who have lost their child when they beg lawmakers for help in addressing the number one killer among people aged 18 -24.  But they deserve more.  Our families deserve action.  New York families need more than just words.  We need the necessary resources put into the NYS OASAS budget so that our loved ones don’t continue to die. 
23 million Americans are now living in recovery from the disease of addiction.  That’s 23 million taxpayers who are contributing to their communities.  These people who have successfully battled their disease of addiction are no longer a tax-drain on our communities, rather they are functioning, productive members of society.  They have jobs, families of their own, and lives filled with hope and purpose.  They are living miracles – people who were able to overcome a once helpless and hopeless addiction – to live a life transformed into one of health and wellness.
With 22 million Americans living with active addiction, the solution of recovery is not only possible; it must be made available to anyone who needs it.  The key is that our leaders must be willing to invest financially to address the problem of addiction now.  It’s time to stop talking and start investing so another family like mine doesn’t lose a loved one to the chronic, progressive, and too often fatal disease of addiction.
We need to make addiction recovery a priority now and it starts with the budget.
I am registered and I vote.

Respectfully yours,

Bill Williams
Lew Beach NY