NH Mother Will Tell Drug Story on Capitol Hill
She found her son in the bathroom — the syringe still in his hand, his thumb and finger still bent around the plunger.
“It killed my son instantly,” Susan Messinger says of the heroin-fentanyl mix pumped into Carl, who died in 2014, eight days shy of his 25th birthday.
The lethal dose, of which she says turned out to be just fentanyl, never should have happened. The mother from Holderness will tell her story today in front of a congressional task force created to address the heroin and opioid scourge sweeping the state and nation.
U.S. Rep. Ann McLane Kuster, D-NH, invited Messinger to Capitol Hill to share one of many confounding parts of this health crisis, and call for action, including support for legislation co-sponsored by Kuster, and Rep. Frank Guinta, R-NH.
Messinger does not shield her son of any responsibility, for she says it was ultimately his decision, but she says her son, who was a recovering addict, never should have been prescribed a cough medicine with narcotics that led to a relapse.
She says the doctor who prescribed it, who was not her son’s primary care physician, did not know Carl was a recovering addict. Messinger is speaking on behalf of a Kuster bill that would require a patient’s addiction to be included and featured prominently in the patient’s medical charts. She additionally is calling for better labeling of cough medicines that contain opiates.
Congress, like the New Hampshire Legislature, is prioritizing efforts to combat the heroin and opioid epidemic.
Just in the last week, the U.S. House of Representatives passed 18 different pieces of legislation, Kuster said. The bills include emergency funding and programming for prevention, treatment, recovery, as well as support for law enforcement to sever drug trafficking, drug monitoring at the Veterans Affairs, and greater access to naloxone/Narcan, a drug that can counter effects of an overdose.
Kuster, it was announced Tuesday, was named to a conference committee to reconcile differences in the bills passed by the House and the Senate counterpart legislation, the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act. The Senate passed the legislation, known as CARA, 94-1. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-NH, and Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-NH, fought unsuccessfully for a Shaheen amendment that would have appropriated $600 million in emergency funding to combat the heroin/opioid crisis.
Kuster, who said the House legislation would appropriate about $118 million, is looking to secure more emergency funding. She remains hopeful.
“By far, it’s the most bipartisan experience I’ve had since I came to Congress,” Kuster said in a phone interview with Messinger from her Washington office.
She and Guinta serve as co-chairmen of the Bipartisan Task Force to Combat the Heroin Epidemic. Families reeling from drug addiction losses will be on Capitol Hill to give a face to the crisis.
Kuster, who has two sons in their 20s, said the personal experiences conveyed by families drives home that addiction knows no bounds. “I see their faces in Carl’s face,” Kuster said of her sons.
Carl Messinger, who graduated from Plymouth Regional High School and the University of New Hampshire, was taking courses at Plymouth State University when he first tried heroin, his mother said.
“He tried it once and he was hooked,” she said.
His parents, upon learning of his addiction, got him into detox as soon as they could, and learned that admittance is no easy feat. There were insurance hurdles, part of which policymakers are trying to resolve in addressing the crisis. Her son found treatment at the Farnum Center in Manchester, and emerged with clear eyes, and a sense of hope. About two weeks later, her son came down with an upper respiratory infection, and went to seek the cold medicine prescription.
It’s a tough story for a mother to share. Messinger will do so again in Washington, hoping to make a difference for other families.
“We have to act fast,” she said, “because we are losing a whole generation of young people.”
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