State Rep. Joe Bellino (R-Monroe), Ken Daniels and Mike Hirst testified before the House Health Policy Committee to call attention to the role pilfering plays in Michigan’s growing opioid epidemic and to advocate for passage of House Bill 5857.
“I’ve talked to literally hundreds of young men and women since my son passed away and I ask them all the same question – how did you get started? Well, the national average is eight out of every 10 heroin addicts in this country started with prescription drugs. I haven’t found one that didn’t start that way. So that’s why I support this,” Hirst said.
Pilfering, the act of stealing someone else’s prescription drugs hoping it will go undetected, is the leading source of opioid abuse for children between the ages of 12 and 17. Studies show that each year, over 600,000 youth across the nation start the cycle of opioid abuse by pilfering.
The ineffective and outdated child-resistant prescription vials in use today have not been modified in nearly 50 years. They were designed in 1970, when the Federal Poison Prevention Packaging Act was enacted with a goal of preventing young children from overdosing on the family supply of flavored aspirin. Today, medications prescribed for pain management are nearly 80 times stronger than morphine, and are dispensed in child-resistant vials that any older child or adolescent can easily access.
“Research shows teenage prescription abuse often starts with a family or friend’s medicine cabinet, not a street corner,” said Bellino. “We must take action to prevent young people from taking the first step down the road that leads to addiction and even death.”
Introduced by Rep. Bellino in April, the common-sense legislation will reduce pilfering and save lives by requiring opioids to be dispensed in locking prescription vials. Experts believe HB 5857 will prevent nearly 150,000 Michigan children and teens from starting the cycle of opioid abuse over a 10-year-period.
Leading national experts from the Bloomberg School of Public Health at Johns Hopkins, Vanderbilt University Medicine, University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus and other institutions testified in support of the landmark legislation which is also supported by the Michigan Fraternal Order of Police, Families Against Narcotics, the Michigan Chapter of American Academy of Pediatrics and the Michigan Association for Local Public Health. Eaton and Oakland Counties have also passed resolutions of support for HB 5857.
“Addiction is an illness. Addicts don’t want to be addicts,” said Daniels. “I lost my son Jamie in December 2010 at the age of 23. He did not want to be an addict. I can testify to that.”