Mother who lost 2 sons to opioid overdose tells lawmakers more outreach is needed
WASHINGTON (Sinclair Broadcast Group) - Becky Savage sat before the Senate committee, speaking in a calm, unwavering voice as she explained in detail the morning she discovered the bodies of her two dead teenage sons.
Savage's sons Nick, 19, and Jack, 18, died of acute alcohol and oxycodone overdose.
"Nick and Jack had attended graduation parties the night before, came home at curfew and checked in with me. I went to bed as they headed to the kitchen to make a snack. The next morning, I went to Jack's room and found him unresponsive," Savage explained.
She described to the panel of lawmakers how she fell back on her training as a nurse to respond to the unfolding events. Administering CPR, calling 9-1-1 and then calling out for her eldest son to assist her… but he never came.
"You see, Nick was sleeping in the basement with friends and when I called for help his friends heard me and tried to awaken him but he had passed away as well," Savage said. "How could two boys who have always seemed to make good decisions in life, make a choice that would ultimately cost them their life? My husband and I don't understand."
Savage went on to create The 525 Foundation in honor of her two sons, the name of the organization comes from combining the two numbers of her sons' hockey jerseys. She now speaks to parents and students about how the opioid crisis changed her life and the life of their family indefinitely. It was her work that led her to testify before the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, Thursday.
The committee held the hearing to get a better understanding of the impact the opioid crisis has on families and children.
Committee Chairman Sen. Lamar Alexander, R - Tenn., cited the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in his opening remarks that the number of infants born in withdrawal from opioids tripled from 1999 to 2013.
"Babies born to mothers using opioids are at risk for neonatal abstinence syndrome or N-A-S and may go through withdrawal symptoms and may face other health issues," Alexander said. "The average cost to treat a baby with NAS is $66,000. The cost is a lot less for babies born to mothers in the program."
The senator said the 21st Century Cures Act includes $1 billion in grants for states to fight the growing epidemic, but he wanted to know if the federal laws and policy were working at the ground level.
"Congress passed the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA) in 1974 to combat child abuse and neglect and to provide funding for states to improve their child protection and child welfare services," Alexander said. "Due to updates, the law now requires the states to address the needs of both the infant as well as the affected family member. It requires states to collect new information."
The Committee's Ranking Member Sen. Patty Murray, D - Wash., called out President Donald Trump for inaction by his administration to fully battle the opioid crisis.
"Unfortunately, while President Trump has declared the opioid crisis a public health emergency - his promise to address it rings hollow today in light of the actions. At a time of public health emergency, President Trump's administration has been sabotaging our health care, making it harder for people to get Medicaid, which helps provide substance abuse disorder treatment," Murray said.
The senator added that she was pleased with how lawmakers on Capitol Hill continued to work together in a bipartisan way to make progress on legislation pertaining to the drug crisis.
"We need to confront the challenges of everyone this crisis affects and we need to do it in partnership with everyone who can help affect change," Murray said. "That means working closely with stakeholders ranging from federal, state and local governments to health care providers to educators, public safety officials and most importantly families."
Witness William Bell, Ph.D and president/CEO of Casey Family Programs, explained that opioids put a strain on families and communities. In 2016, more than 437,465 children were in foster care.
Bell attributed the increase in the number of children within the program to opioid use disorders and overdoses among parents.
"Research has shown that when parents are able to get into treatment programs with their children in a timely manner, two-thirds of them complete the program compared with only one-fifth of parents who complete the program when their children are not allowed to stay in the treatment facility with them," Bell said in a statement.