Action Figures

John and Cassie Nygren

Wisconsin State Representative John Nygren and his daughter Cassie.

Spread awareness, lessen the stigma, educate yourself. I don’t know about you, but so often I want to stand up and shout, “Yes, but what can we DOOOOOOOO?!”  I’m a happy girl this morning because I just read more about how these two folks are on the move.   They are my super-hero action figures.

Wisconsin state Representative John Nygren, as you may know, has been integral in using his daughter’s addiction to Heroin for good by introducing, a series of bills aimed at fighting the growing Heroin and prescription drug epidemic in our state. ¹ Yea, John and daughter, Cassie, who while in treatment, urged her dad to use his position to address the crisis that takes captives and lives. HOPE, which stands for Heroin, Opiate Prevention and Education, was signed by the governor and passed unanimously in both houses of the Wisconsin State Legislature.  Both houses — unanimously.  I’m proud of our state.  In a time of political nastiness, Wisconsin knows that addiction reaches across the aisle — and so should we.

As you read the short summary of HOPE, you may ask, “Why should we allocate public funding for addiction treatment?  Why should insurance companies pay for someone’s “bad choices”?  In a debt-ridden country with everyone making their cause an exception or addition, how is this valid?  As a tax-payer, why should I pay for your son’s treatment?  Excellent points. The long and short of it is: people’s addiction costs you money. People’s extended addiction costs you more money. Throwing addicted people in jail costs you money and will cost you more money when they get out untreated and the addiction continues. And we haven’t even mentioned the financial toll on families and thus, society.

In 1956 The American Medical Association declared alcoholism an illness.² Some balk, that’s for another blog, but it did.  If a person has an illness that has no cure but does have a solution for recovery, and incarceration is not it, choose the solution.  Not advocating a pass card for bad behavior here, but addressing the cause.  We don’t refuse smokers treatment for lung cancer.  If they keep smoking, we don’t say “Sorry, you had your chance. No hospital stay for you.” Do we say that to people with other diseases that might reoccur? Someone’s bottom line might be, “Frankly, I couldn’t care less about these people’s problems.” Duly noted, but remember, those people’s problems cost you A LOT of money.  Incarceration costs more than treatment and repetitive incarceration costs you over and over again. Treat addiction = save money.

“Legalize and tax marijuana or other drugs,” say some. One tax dollar received = ten tax dollars spent on the use of those drugs. ³

Even if you’re in the “That’s your issue” category, here is a fascinating read if you are Average Joe U.S. Citizen, paying taxes and working hard.  High Society: How Substance Abuse Ravages America and What to Do About It by Joseph A. Califano, Jr.4   It can lead to action, which saves lives, families and everybody’s money.

If live in another state and want HOPE, contact your congresspeople with a brief email, right now. Boom, done.


¹Read how Representative John Nygren and his daughter, Cassie, got the ball rolling.
³Reefer Sanity: Seven Great Myths About Marijuana by Kevin A. Sabet, Ph.D.
4Joseph A. Califano is a former United States Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare and the founder and chairman of The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University (CASAColumbia), an evidence-based research organization. He has been Adjunct Professor of Public Health (Health Policy and Management) at Columbia University Medical School (Department of Psychiatry) and School of Public Health and is a member of the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences.  He is the author of ten other books, including America’s Health Care Revolution: Who Lives? Who Dies? Who Pays?