Kuster Announces Legislation in Honor of Local Granite Stater to Improve Opioid Prescribing Safety
Concord, N.H., June 28, 2016
This morning, Congresswoman Annie Kuster joined with medical professionals and leaders in the fight against the opioid epidemic to announce her bill known as Carl’s Law –legislation that would require opioid medication to include a label warning if the drug contains opiates that could cause drug-seeking behavior. The Congresswoman introduced this legislation on behalf of Carl Messinger, a Granite Stater who died of a fentanyl overdose after he relapsed when he was prescribed an opiate medication while in recovery by a physician unaware of his history of addition. If Carl’s medication had featured a warning label, his relapse and death could have been prevented.
“As Granite Staters with substance use disorder come forward to seek treatment, we must offer full support throughout the recovery process – and we must work to prevent inadvertent exposure to substances that could prove to be fatal for an individual in recovery,” said Congresswoman Kuster. “I crafted today’s legislation after learning about Carl Messinger’s story, a young man from Holderness in recovery whose life was lost after he was prescribed a cough medicine that – unbeknownst to him – contained opiates. His relapse and overdose could have been prevented had he only known what was in that medicine bottle, and my heart breaks for his mother and all the families across the Granite State who have dealt with similar situations. We must take action immediately to prevent Carl’s story from happening again, and I was so proud have Carl’s mother, Susan, by my side today as we announced this important legislation. I thank Susan for her courage, strength, resilience, and deep-felt commitment to protecting others from the devastating experience of losing a loved one to a deadly substance.”
Today’s announcement, held at Hope for New Hampshire Recovery’s Concord center, brought together state leaders in the recovery, treatment, prevention, and medical communities. Following Kuster’s announcement of Carl’s Law, attendees heard from Sue Messinger, Carl Messinger’s mother; Michele Merritt, New Futures’ Policy Director; and James Potter, the New Hampshire Medical Society’s Executive Vice President. Each speaker highlighted the importance and impact of Carl’s Law, and underscored the sentiment that if this legislation had been in existence during Carl’s lifetime, he could still be alive today.
“As many people in recovery will tell you, an illness or injury has the potential to spur a relapse event, which can derail recovery, even for someone with years of sobriety,” said Michele Merritt, Policy Director for New Futures. “This is due in large part to the prescribing of opiates, and the lack of information made available to patients regarding the addictive nature of some medications. Without this critical information, individuals in recovery, like Carl, are deprived of the ability to make an informed decision about their health. This is simply unacceptable. Carl’s Law is the first step to ensuring every patient, whether in recovery or at risk of developing a substance use disorder, has all of the information needed to make important make healthcare decisions. It is for this reason that New Futures strongly supports Congresswoman Kuster in her efforts to introduce this legislation.”
“As we work to stem the opioid epidemic, it is essential that providers and patients have access to the information they need to safely and fully treat substance use disorder,” said James Potter, the Executive Vice President of the New Hampshire Medical Society. “Carl’s Law is an important step forward in that effort, and will help improve patients’ and their families’ understanding of prescription medicine and its potential side effects. The New Hampshire Medical Society looks forward to working with Representative Kuster on this legislation, and thanks the Congresswoman, as well as Sue Messinger, for their commitment to this issue.”
Kuster has helped lead the fight to address the heroin and opioid crisis at the federal level and in New Hampshire, and she has been an outspoken advocate for the need to support medical, law enforcement, treatment, and recovery efforts. Kuster has met with medical experts across the state and attended ride-alongs with law enforcement officials in Keene, Nashua, and Franklin, providing her with a direct look at the challenges facing communities. She continues to hold a series of regional briefings around the district to ensure the voices of local stakeholders and affected community members are heard. As the cofounder and co-chair of the Bipartisan Task Force to Combat the Heroin Epidemic, she was instrumental in the fight to pass 18 bills in the House to address the opioid crisis, and in recognition of her leadership on this issue Kuster was recently appointed to the conference committee tasked with producing the final version of the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA), which will combine these 18 House bills with a Senate counterpart.