CHARLESTON, W.Va. — When the regular session of the state legislature begins in January, a national group will be in West Virginia asking lawmakers to look at bills which take a different look at the problem of drug addiction.

Gary Mendell is the founder and CEO of Shatterproof, an organization which aims to protect children from drug addiction and erase the stigma accompanying those who suffer from addiction. shatterproof_250_194

“Once you’re addicted, it changes your brain. It is a brain disease. It’s not bad people doing bad things, that’s a total misperception of what science shows,” Mendell said during a recent appearance on MetroNews Talkline.

Previously the CEO of HEI Hotels & Resorts, he founded the organization –using $5 million of his own money and raising $3 million more– after his son Brian lost a battle with addiction. He had been 13 months sober before taking his own life at the age of 25.

With Shatterproof, Mendell started down a path in hopes that one day no family would lose a loved one to addiction. This path led to developing policy which successfully made its way through state legislatures.

Now this path leads Mendell to West Virginia, which sufferers from the highest drug overdose mortality rate in the United States.

Beyond changing the stigma surrounding those suffering from addiction and establishing science-based programs that help with addiction recovery, Shatterproof is focusing on two pieces of legislation which could potentially keep those dying of an overdose alive and give them a second chance to seek help.

Eighteen states have passed what Mendell refers to as a “911 Good Samaritan” bill.

“If someone is overdosing and you call 911, the person you’re calling for and you the caller are immune from criminal and civil liability, except for major crimes,” Mendell explained.

The rationale is that if fear is taken out of the equation, people will be more likely to seek help the help which could potentially save someone’s life.

Another piece of legislation Shatterproof is push for in West Virginia relates to preventing overdose deaths attributed to opiates, such as heroin or oxycodone.

First responders in 25 states have been provided with the drug nolaxone, an opioid antagonist first approved by the FDA to counter overdose deaths in 1971.

“If you’ve had Oxycontin, percocet, vicodin or heroin, an opiate, and it attaches to receptors which get you to stop breathing, the nolaxone goes in,” Mendell said. “It pushes the opiates aside and attaches to receptors so the opiate is pushed aside and can’t attach to the receptor in your brain.”

A similar bill did not make it to law during last year’s session in West Virginia.

Mendell attributes this more to legislators not having the time to look over the proposal and fully understand than lawmakers being against the idea completely.

He hopes with the success of nolaxone in states that have passed the bill, West Virginia will not be far behind.

“Twenty-five states have already done this and are saving lives today, 10,000 lives have already been saved in this country by a first responder coming in, the ambulance or policeman, and administering nolaxone and saving someone’s life.”

More information on the legislation and the organization itself can be found at Shatterproof’s website.

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  • Shadow

    One has to ask why hasn't Nolaxone been promoted by our governments when it has been around for 43 years? Maybe it proves why governments can't do the job that Capitalistic practices can!

  • Bruiser

    Have you ever heard of a slander suit, to make an accusation about the Attorney General or any other individual without solid proof is just wrong. The drug problem not only in WV but our nation has been going on for 25 years or more, way before he became Attorney General. Drugs and alcohol have broken many families, caused many domestic violence, robberies, the list could go on and on. Society thinks they can say or print anything without consequences, shame on you and I have no hidden agenda, but apparantely you do. Drugs and alcohol hit any family, rich or poor.

    • wvu999

      You guys are right, our AG is awesome and has WVians interests only in his work.
      I was just going by the facts reported by Eric Eyre in the WV Gazette the past year. Pesky facts

      • wirerowe

        I read all of Eric Eyre's reports. he is an excellent investigative reporter. His reports regarding the AG and his wife on the Cardinal lawsuits while troubling have very little to do with the accusation that you made. You are way off base, out of line and it is very troubling that you would use a platform that promotes solutions to dealing with our state's very severe drug problems that as Bruiser said have been around for 25 or more years for your personal ax to grind with the AG.

        • wvu999

          So taking your campaign fundraising manager to a retreat in Fla filled with people who give a lot of money to you and signing her in as an AG employee doesn't concern you?

          • wvu999

            Yeah he is "cleaning up" the AG office. That was his platform.
            What a joke.

          • Wirerowe

            He did that!!! I am going to cut my throat.

  • wvu999

    Our Attorney General and his wife are in the big drug company's payroll.
    Expect drug use to continue to rise in WV.
    This is what happens when you elect a puppet.

    • ViennaGuy

      Drug addiction is more than just prescription drug addiction. Are you saying that the attorney general is on the take from dealers of illegal drugs and prescription drug manufacturers? If so, where is your proof?

      What did Darrell McGraw do to fight the scourge of addiction?

      • wvu999

        Do yourself a favor
        Follow Eric Eyre on Twitter or read his Gazette articles.

        • ViennaGuy

          I know you detest Patrick Morrisey, but you could at least TRY to back up your claims that he is "on the take" from the drug companies - which is also a very serious ethics charge. Prove it.

          I'll ask you again: what did Darrell McGraw do to stem the tide of drug use in this state?

          • wvu999

            Mcgraw at least won tens of millions of dollars from these companies while PM won't touch them since he and his wife make a living from them.
            WV leads the country in ODs but PM won't go after them.
            It couldn't be more obvious

    • Wirerowe

      I think that this group seems to have a lot of worthwhile innovative approaches for dealing with our state's biggest problems. I hope the administration and the legislature will give them consideration.Blaming the drug addiction problem on the Attorney General is also a novel idea. Please provide documentation on what actions he or his wife have taken to be the cause of drug addiction in the state. I could just as easily say you are the cause and are deflecting attention from your self on to the AG.