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News (Media Awareness Project) - US IN: Edu: Mother Advocates Stronger Laws For Substance
Title:US IN: Edu: Mother Advocates Stronger Laws For Substance
Published On:2012-02-01
Source:Indiana Daily Student (IN Edu)
Fetched On:2012-02-02 06:02:55

Three years ago, Bloomington resident Sharon Blair lost her oldest
child, 29-year-old Jennifer Reynolds, to what most people might not
call a disease: drug addiction.

But Blair, 54, believes an illness is what caused her daughter's
accidental overdose on Jan. 15, 2009.

"The brain is malfunctioning. It's not processing," she said. "So it
is a disease. That is something no one wants to talk about."

However, Blair intends to get the attention of lawmakers in Indiana
and Florida, where Blair and her family lived when her daughter died.

Blair drafted the Jennifer Act in 2002 when her daughter was still
deeply addicted to drugs. She was addicted to opium pills, heroin,
marijuana and alcohol.

The act would allow families to commit substance-addicted people to
state-funded treatment centers. During Jennifer's fluctuating
addiction, Blair sent her daughter to treatment centers using the
Marchman Act, a Florida law that allows families to commit a
substance-addicted person who has met certain criteria to qualify for
state-funded treatment.

The year Jennifer died, Blair sent the bill to county representatives
in Florida.

Blair and her family were able to pay the fees for the petition in
each county, which could sometimes cost $400. She saw this as
discrimination against people who can't afford the fees.

The Jennifer Act in Florida would also put the petition fees at a
flat, affordable rate.

When Blair moved to back to her hometown of Bloomington in 2010, she
discovered Indiana law defines substance addictions as different from
mental illness.

The same year, State Sen. Vi Simpson, D-Bloomington, and then-state
Sen. Sue Errington, D-Muncie, sponsored the bill.

It has been reintroduced by Simpson in the current legislative
session as Concurrent Resolution 7.

Jill Matheny, the director of the Indiana Addictions Issues
Coalition, said she believes the bill has a good chance of passing
legislation and that it should receive more attention this summer.

"I would hope that this would enable more Hoosiers to access
treatment and find long-term recovery," she said. "Too many people
out there still believe that this is a willpower or moral issue. It's not."

Blair said Jennifer first began her drug use when she was 16, not
long before she dropped out of high school. Although she earned her
GED diploma, she sank deeper into the addiction so that Blair had to
constantly intervene.

"You balance between tough love, codependent, enabling boundaries,
and the boundaries just keep moving and coming in and out, and the
goal is to reach treatment but the walls just keep moving in and
out," she said. "It's the process of traveling with someone who is
addicted to drugs."

Nathan Blair, 25, said his sister's death brought his family closer.

"I think it's a tragedy that made us realize how important it is to
have family," he said.

Nathan said he has helped encapsulate the act, mainly in Florida, by
helping with the website and sending out ads in Clearwater, Fla.

One of the messages of the Jennifer Act is that no one grows up
believing they will become drug addicts and that it isn't a conscious decision.

"It just happens through a series of bad events in your life, one
after the other, and slowly it consumes you, and at that point, it's
almost like you don't have the capacity to make the decision for
yourself," Nathan said.

Blair said one of the components she won't compromise on is making
faith-based treatments an option for those involuntarily committed.

"I know that I'm probably never going to get every single thing of
the Jennifer Act I asked for, but if I get some of it, I feel like
that's progress," she said. "I think that's positive and that we're
moving in the right direction and that it's beneficial for families
to know that they have health options out there."
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