State Representative meets with Tecumseh Coalition for Youth
Michigan State Representative Nancy Jenkins met with Tecumseh Coalition for Youth at their monthly meeting on Tuesday, April 8, at Evans Street Station. The goal was for members of the coalition to give Jenkins a background on work done by TCY and to ensure her legislative support.
“Our coalition is really focused on prevention,” said April Demers, Prevention Coordinator for TCY.
Michigan Automated Prescription System (MAPS) was the biggest concern for TCY. Jenkins said she was only slightly familiar with MAPS, so Demers explained the system was created to track prescriptions and is to be used by physicians and pharmacists.
“It’s a great way to deter doctor shopping,” Demers said.
Demers shared that she has been working with Michigan Senator Randy Richardville to draw up a bill that will make it mandatory for doctors and pharmacists to use MAPS when prescribing or filling medication. The hope from TCY members was that Jenkins will also support the bill.
“We really need and want to get something in the hopper on MAPS,” said Demers.
When asked if she was familiar with the connection between opioid painkillers and heroin, Jenkins asked for more information. Demers explained that opioid painkillers like oxycodone, hydrocodone, methadone, and morphine, are commonly prescribed and easily obtained by young people.
The concern for kids and those using prescribed opiates is how quickly the body can become addicted to the medications. According to Demers, studies show the body relies on the medication after only two weeks.
Once addicted, most people cannot afford to pay $80 for one pill, and then turn to heroin as a cheaper way to feed the addiction. The cost is only about $10 for the amount of heroin needed to get high.
“Kids think opioid medications are a safer way to get high,” Demers said. “They start with Vicodin, become addicted, can’t afford it, and then turn to heroin.”
TCY has been looking at options to successfully prevent abuse from starting. The group works within the schools to educate students through SADD (Students Against Destructive Decisions) at Tecumseh High School and Junior SADD at Tecumseh Middle School.
One of the best ways to prevent abuse in the community, according to Demers, is to have doctors and pharmacists onboard with MAPS. “It is a big deterrent for abusers when the MAPS sign is seen in doctor’s offices or pharmacies,” said Demers.
Roland Von Kaler, member of TCY and Tecumseh Rotary, presented Jenkins with his idea to have special caps or labels on all bottles of opioid medications. He asked Jenkins if it was possible to amend a bill to make it law in Michigan that those opioids have special labels.
“I would have to look into that and see if it is a possibility,” Jenkins said.
Von Kaler also expressed the need to identify potential drug abusers based on what teachers see in the classroom. The goal would be to work with students to keep them from making poor choices.
TCY also informed Jenkins of the concerns over the approval by the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) of painkiller Zohydro. The drug was created for those dealing with chronic pain, and is ten times stronger than hydrocodone.
“A 50 mg hydrocodone medication is potentially lethal,” said Demers. “Massachusetts was the first state to ban Zohydro. We need to convince doctors and pharmacists not to use the medication.”
Von Kaler told Jenkins he would like to see no opioid pills given to anyone living with children. “Dispense it some other way,” he said, suggesting a pump dispersal or getting one pill a day from the doctor.
Elizabeth Solomonson presented to Jenkins the statistics she had compiled on opioid addiction and heroin abuse, and made copies of her research for Jenkins to go over. Solomonson lost her daughter Raven to a heroin overdose and has formed the group Raising H.E.L.L. for R.A.V.E.N. to help in the battle against drug addiction.
Jim and Donna Yearsin, of Celebrate Recovery, said they see how addiction affects not just the person with the addiction problem, but also every member of the family.
“That’s a lot of good information,” Jenkins said to the group. “I appreciate all your ideas.”
After the meeting she added, “It was great to see the passion from the people around the table. It was very helpful for me to get ideas. I was glad they brought the legislation to my attention.”