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.
“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.