Deborah Parente lost her son, Peter, to a drug overdose in 2015. Read her powerful story below.
Parente writes, "Opioid addiction and overdose can enter any home. I know, because it entered mine... As a mother who has lost a child to overdose, I found it heartening that Gov. Gina Raimondo made this issue a high priority. I was there recently when her Overdose Task Force announced clear, measurable new actions to reverse the course of Rhode Island's epidemic. When you look at what happened to Peter, the governor's plan makes sense at every level."
Please consider sharing this week's op-ed with your friends and neighbors.
Deborah Parente: Drug addiction took my son at 25
Providence Journal, 05/22/16
Opioid addiction and overdose can enter any home. I know, because it entered mine.
My son Peter was a warm, funny, handsome, wonderful young man. He loved animals - even snakes and reptiles - and wanted to be a veterinarian from a young age. We used to joke that he could tame a lion, or the meanest dog. Though he never got the chance to be a vet, he graduated from the Prout School, attended Rhode Island College and the Community College of Rhode Island and found a good, steady job at a local auto dealership.
Peter also struggled with addiction for the last five years of his life. Last November, at age 25, he died of a drug overdose.
It's easy for people who haven't experienced this crisis firsthand to write off its victims. They had it coming, others might think. Or, they should have known better. They chose an immoral path. This wouldn't happen to my family.
The truth is that drugs don't discriminate. Like so many others who have lost their lives to Rhode Island's drug overdose crisis, Peter's addiction started with prescription painkillers, such as Vicodin. These are powerful drugs, and Peter became addicted. Before long, he was using heroin.
Peter overdosed at work. By the time the EMTs arrived, it was too late. If we had better education, and if more people in my son's life knew about and carried naloxone, which can reverse an overdose, Peter might still be here today.
Help was too late for my son. But it's not too late for other sons and daughters.
Rhode Island is in the midst of an overdose epidemic, and the drugs are getting more dangerous. We need to act with urgency before we lose any more children, siblings, parents and friends.
As a mother who has lost a child to overdose, I found it heartening that Gov. Gina Raimondo made this issue a high priority. I was there recently when her Overdose Task Force announced clear, measurable new actions to reverse the course of Rhode Island's epidemic.
When you look at what happened to Peter, the governor's plan makes sense at every level. It includes specific steps to make prescribing safer, so that fewer people are likely to get hooked in the first place. It will make naloxone more widely available in the community - something that could have saved Peter's life. And it will expand access to proven treatment and recovery services, so people like Peter who are living with addiction can get the help they need.
I was especially glad to see Governor Raimondo commit to raising awareness to help end the stigma of addiction in Rhode Island. Our overdose crisis has touched every community in the state. Everyone should understand how addiction works and feel empowered to speak up if they hear or read negative comments about people struggling with this terrible disease. Nobody should have to feel afraid of being judged if they ask for help. And family members, friends, restaurants, businesses and public venues should know about naloxone and shouldn't think twice about having it on hand in case someone overdoses.
Governor Raimondo has included $4 million in her proposed budget to support medication-assisted treatment at the Department of Corrections, and to expand access to peer recovery services. A number of other important bills have been proposed, including bills to support comprehensive hospital discharge planning for patients treated with substance use disorders, and to expand the use of the Prescription Drug Monitoring Program.
Widespread support for these vital pieces of legislation can make a difference. Whether or not this crisis has affected you directly, I urge you to contact your representatives in the General Assembly and encourage them to act on overdose. Educate your neighbors about naloxone. And speak up against stigma wherever you see it.
No parent should have to experience the loss that Peter's dad and I have. We will live with it for the rest of our lives. But we can all play a role in helping to prevent heartache for additional families. It is not too late to act.
Deborah Parente, of Cranston, is the mother of Peter Angelone, who died in November 2015 from a drug overdose.