Montana reverting back to the early 20th century ?

The Economics and the Emotions of Montana’s Medical Marijuana Ruling

I headed to one of Missoula’s largest medical marijuana providers today.

This store sells medical marijuana to patients with state-issued cards.

I got there around 11 AM and for the next hour I saw one person after another come through the doors.

Many had no idea of the Montana Supreme Court ruling yesterday that effectively killed Montana’s medical marijuana program.

I and the owners of this store explained the ruling to them, while also discussing what it means for patients, the impact of it for providers, and the overall economic and social impact for the state.

I’d like to discuss those things with you today so that we can get a better understanding of how yesterday’s decision affects Montana lives.


When I arrived there was a person getting his medicine as well as a woman waiting.
The woman waiting has been a patient for years, has cancer, and looked quite frail.

She was close to tears as she got what she needed and then stayed a bit to talk.

“They don’t care one bit for us little people with cancer,” she said, close to tears, and hugging the store’s staff.

Both of the women that were working were on the verge of tears as well.

More scenes like that played out over the course of the next hour.

Most people coming in were older, in their 40s and 50s. Those that had heard of the ruling were in shock, not sure what they’d do.

Many complained about the ruling, the people in Helena, and the fact that the people’s will had been overridden.

There weren’t a lot of large purchases. Most people got small amounts, about a quarter ounce for $50 or so.

I was surprised by how many people were getting edibles like cookies and such. Another popular item were the vaporizing pens.

Both offer alternatives to those that don’t like to smoke marijuana. Both will not be offered on the black market.

That black market was discussed quite a bit, mainly from a negative standpoint.

People do not want to go back to it. They don’t want to go down some shady alley to get medicine, or call someone to come to their house.

They want to go to an established business that’s paying payroll taxes, paying rent, and paying a lot more.

The discussions with the business’s owner were especially revealing.

I was astounded to learn that this provider is paying $42,000 a month for power.

​ That means Northwestern Energy is making $504,000 a year from that guy…just in the electricity he needs to operate his business.

Sure, he’s growing pot, but that’s how you supply that to patients.

He estimates that there are 5 similarly-sized businesses, so Northwestern Energy is set to lose $2.5 million because of this ruling…and just on those large providers.

That’s the thing – you can’t expand our current 471 providers to the 4,546 that would be needed if every patient had a provider that only had three patients.

The provider I talked with figured it cost him $1,600 in power the first month he started up.

That’s not counting the administrative costs that the Montana Medical Marijuana Program requires you to go through.

Besides the paperwork fees there’s fingerprinting and a whole range of other stuff.

That all adds up. Expanding the number of providers just isn’t possible because of it.

We’re not even getting into the payroll taxes, rent, property taxes, and whatever else that business is putting into the local community.

I asked the two employees that work there and that aren’t providers, or at least don’t own the business.

One is a young woman that’s in her 20s. She just started so at least it won’t be a huge change if she has to get a new job.

The other woman is closer to her 30s and she’s been working there for a year or more. It isn’t her only job but it’s her main job.

She was pretty stressed out all morning, close to tears at times it looked like.

I suspect many around the state are the same way today.

A lot of talk was directed at what could be done about this.

So far, no one knows what’s going on.

As you’ll remember from yesterday, when I called the DPHHS agency in Helena they said they had to wait for their lawyers to review things.

At the local level, the owner of this shop had called the Sheriff’s Department. They referred him to the County Attorney.

The woman he talked with there hadn’t even heard of it yet.

So at the local level people do not know what to do. Because of that, stores remain open.

This owner called the governor’s office. The woman that he talked to said that the governor agrees with him that people should have their medicine.

So far, however, they don’t know what they’ll do.

The shop is giving a piece of paper to every person that comes in, telling them to call the governor:



The biggest hope is that something can be done, some kind of veto or stay or executive action.
Perhaps letting the ten largest operations serve as providers was one idea.

Surely there must be a way to not enforce this, mainly because of the Catch-22 that says you can’t possibly supply if you can’t run a viable business.

Catering to 3 people is not a viable business no matter what your industry.

So there’s frustration there. The store says it will remain open until they’re told to close.

Patients asked what would happen after that.

There were a lot of shrugs, a lot of hands held up in ‘I dunno’ gestures, and a lot of talk saying you’ll have to go to the black market.

People were not happy to hear that.

Perhaps that will translate into political action.

The State Initiative to Legalize Marijuana in Montana

If you head on over to 420 406, the site to legalize marijuana in Montana, you’ll get all kinds of information on getting that initiative on the ballot.

Lots of people have signed up to gather signatures, and you can do the same.

The forms are all there, as well as advice on how to best gather signatures for the ballot.

I went ahead and left a comment on the About page asking how many signatures they’ll need in all the counties, specifically across the Hi-Line.

This is what I was told:

“I’m riding my bike across the hi-line collecting signatures in May. We need 10 percent of the registered voters in 40 districts for CI-115, and 5 percent in 40 on I-178. It’s all on the petition forms at”

The main initiative is CI-115, which will effectively legalize marijuana in Montana.
It needs 50,000 signatures and it cannot be altered by the Montana Legislature, as the 2004 law had happen in 2011.

It’s that 2011 alteration, and subsequent lawsuit by Attorney General Tim Fox that triggered yesterday’s ruling by the MT Supreme Court, that has led to the current crisis.

So getting those 50,000 signatures is critical. It’s the only way the anti-jobs Republicans in the legislature can be stopped.

But to deny (opioids to) people in pain because there’s an addiction problem is cruel and wrongheaded

Andrew Kolodny, executive director of Physicians for Responsible Opioid Prescribing, is frustrated that efforts to better control opioid prescriptions are being delayed.

Andrew Kolodny, executive director of Physicians for Responsible Opioid Prescribing, is frustrated that efforts to better control opioid prescriptions are being delayed and interfering with his Addiction Recovery Centers from generating profits ?

CDC’s proposed guidelines on opioids create uproar

Guidelines advising doctors on how and when to prescribe opioid pain pills have proved useful in limiting their use. But who should be issuing that advice, and what it should say, has turned into an acrimonious debate, with a Kansas City patient advocate playing a leading role.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which views the widespread use of opioids as a public health threat, recently proposed guidelines of its own. What the CDC called for stirred an uproar among pain treatment advocates and medical organizations.

They complained that the CDC rushed its proposals through, relying heavily on opioid critics, such as members of Physicians for Responsible Opioid Prescribing, while ignoring pain patients and doctors with other viewpoints.

The proposals were so restrictive, they said, that many chronic-pain patients would no longer be able to get the dosages they need.

Instead of releasing finalized guidelines in January, as planned, the CDC has sought further comment.

The delay frustrates Andrew Kolodny, executive director of Physicians for Responsible Opioid Prescribing. One person he singled out for her role in blocking the guidelines is Myra Christopher, a founder of the Kansas City-based Center for Practical Bioethics.

Although not a physician, Christopher is a recognized authority on pain treatment and an outspoken advocate of people in chronic pain.

But as The Star reported in 2012, her bioethics center received more than $1.5 million from Purdue Pharma that was used to endow a chair in pain and palliative care that she now holds. Purdue makes the opioid OxyContin.

The bioethics center is among seven nonprofit organizations investigated by the U.S. Senate Finance Committee for their ties to opioid manufacturers.

Kolodny called Christopher “one of the most prominent spokesmen of the opioid lobby.”

Christopher is unapologetic about her advocacy.

“I’ve been labeled everything in the universe, but it doesn’t matter to me,” she said. “I’m not financially motivated. … What I care about is that we make decisions based on good data and that we don’t harm populations that have nothing to do with this problem.”

Kolodny, she said, “is a true believer. I have a lot of respect for Andrew Kolodny. He’s just wrong.

“I know of many, many chronic-pain patients who are dependent on opioids but who aren’t addicted.”

Taking on the CDC is important because doctors, hospitals and insurance companies probably will adopt whatever it recommends, Christopher said.

She said guidelines should be coming from professional organizations such as the American Medical Association, rather than from a government agency.

Many health care organizations and medical societies have been offering such guidance, often recommending that non-addicting drugs and other pain therapies be tried before opioids.

Before Temple University Hospital in Philadelphia established guidelines for prescribing to emergency room patients with certain minor pain complaints, 52.7 percent were receiving opioids. After the guidelines went into effect: 29.8 percent.

Christopher took no issue with opioid critics who say the drugs have been overused and misused.

“We have done a really lousy job of using these medications,” she said. Opioids are effective for only about half the patients who receive them; pain management should include other kinds of care, such as counseling, chiropractic, acupuncture, she said.

“I don’t want to sound like I’m pushing opioids. I’m not,” she said. “But to deny (opioids to) people in pain because there’s an addiction problem is cruel and wrongheaded.”

Nearly HALF of all drug overdoses are from OTC’s – don’t tell anyone !

DEA Meets with Pharmaceutical Industry Leaders

U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Acting Administrator Chuck Rosenberg and the Chief of DEA’s Office of Diversion Control, Lou Milione hosted a meeting today in Washington with industry leaders representing the prescription drug supply chain in America.  The purpose of their dialogue was to discuss ways to minimize pharmaceutical diversion while maintaining legitimate commerce and patient access. 

“The pharmaceutical industry has a vital role on the front lines of preventing drug misuse and abuse across America, as do we, and we plan to work closely with them,” said Acting Administrator Rosenberg.  “Today’s forum helps us all to find the right balance between providing patients with important prescription medications and reducing the addictions, overdoses, and crimes that too often result from these substances falling into the wrong hands.”

“DEA is creating opportunities to interact with these companies about their roles and responsibilities under the Controlled Substances Act.  A clear understanding of each other’s goals and challenges better equips both of us to fight our country’s prescription drug abuse epidemic,” said Deputy Assistant Administrator Milione. 

At this forum, DEA presented attendees with information on federal laws and regulations affecting their industry, and provided a forum to ask questions, share their perspectives and voice concerns about regulatory requirements and current issues.

The abuse of controlled-substance medications is an epidemic in America today.  6.5 million people aged 12 and over abused these drugs in 2014, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s National Survey on Drug Use and Health.  According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in 2013 someone died of an unintentional drug overdose every 13 minutes, and more than half of those overdoses were attributed to these medications. 

you are not alone !

Online Support Group for Chronic Pain Launched

Online Support Group for Chronic Pain Launched

By Ed Coghlan

I was driving with one of our columnists to a meeting this weekend in Southern California and we discussed a number of things, including the isolation that people with chronic pain often feel. Friends and family often don’t really understand what a chronic pain sufferer is going through.

As Rachel Noble Benner wrote in the Washington Post last year “I have worked with people who had full, rich lives as corporate leaders, mothers, athletes and professors before their chronic pain. However, by the time I saw them they were isolated, overmedicated and depressed, and they believed their life was devoid of meaning.”

It’s that sense of isolation that a New Jersey-based non-profit is trying address. has been started for a very simple reason, to let people with chronic pain get online and talk with each other.

Robin Viola is the founder and in an interview with the National Pain Report she said, “Social media doesn’t really let you have a conversation—you can comment and others can comment—but a real support group where you can talk with others didn’t exist. We felt it should.”

There are two groups, one on Wednesday and the other on Saturday that meet online and discuss issues of importance to them.

“We have about 300 people signed up—all suffering from chronic pain— and it’s growing fast,” she said. “It’s free, easy to join. It’s been amazing to watch and listen as these groups have developed. People are being helped. There’s nothing quite like peer-to-peer support for chronic pain sufferers.”

Viola has suffered from Crohn’s disease for 40 years. She and her husband Adam Pfeiffer, who serves as CEO, believe the effort can grow.

Steve Ariens, a retired pharmacist who is a contributor to the National Pain Report, has joined the effort. He sees an opportunity for significant growth.

“We are going to launch a third group designed to attract people with fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue,” he said, which is expected to be up and running by the end of March.

Signing up is very easy. Simply register at It’s free. You don’t have to give your full name. It’s designed to be a safe place.

If you choose to participate, let us know what you think about the experience.

By the way, Viola and Ariens both indicated that they plan to offer their digital infrastructure to other non-profit groups.

Chronic pain affects more people than cancer, diabetes, heart attack and stroke combined. The Institute of Medicine estimates there are more than 100 million sufferers in the United States, costing the nation as much as $635 billion a year in medical treatment and lost productivity.

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Three sides to every story .. yours…mine… truth ?

pointingfingersLawsuit against doctors begins

The reputation of two south-central Indiana physicians, including a retired specialist who formerly practiced in Columbus, will be challenged when a medical malpractice lawsuit begins today at the Bartholomew County Courthouse.

Jury selection in the case of Morgan and Brandon Ashley vs. ophthalmologist Joseph W. Conner and Seymour family physician D. Robert Baker is scheduled to begin at 8:30 a.m. today before special Judge Richard W. Poynter of Jackson County.

Conner, a licensed physician for 36 years, had his practice with Parkside Ophthalmology on the north side of Columbus before retiring in June 2014, a family member said.

Why Columbus and not Brownstown?Moving a trial mostly involving Jackson County residents to a nearby community such as Columbus is not that unusual, a Virginia attorney specializing in medical malpractice cases says.

One reason is that juries from counties the size of Bartholomew (population 71,435) are generally considered more plaintiff-friendly than rural counties such as Jackson (population 41,335), according to Randy Wimbish, president of the Virginia Association of Defense Attorneys.

In rural areas, a physician may be not only a beloved caretaker to generations of families, but also a prominent community member involved in various social, religious or charitable organizations, Wimbish wrote on his organization’s website.

By moving the trial to a larger community where the doctor is not well known, a plaintiff’s attorney may be able to eliminate a physician’s home-field advantage, the attorney wrote.

In medical malpractice cases, physicians already have quite an advantage. Statistics from the U.S. Bureau of Justice indicate plaintiffs win only 27 percent of these types of cases, compared to 52 percent for all other plaintiff-won tort trials.

Even a victory doesn’t necessarily mean money for a plaintiff. In fact, most plaintiff-won claims closed with no compensation to a claimant at all, the federal bureau stated.


But the charges against him, as well as Baker, stem from a patient Conner saw six years ago at his other office, Conner Smith Eye Care on West Tipton Street in Seymour.

Morgan Ashley, 27, claims she became legally blind as a result of receiving sub-standard medical care from Baker, her family doctor, and Conner. Brandon Ashley, 34, contends he should be compensated for losing unspecified services of his wife.

The couple, who have lived several years in the Crothersville area, have not specified the amount of monetary damages they are seeking.

Their case was laid out in the original complaint for injuries filed May 22, 2013, in Bartholomew Circuit Court by the couple’s attorney, Patrick W. Harrison of Columbus.

When Morgan Ashley saw Baker in the summer of 2010, she complained of skin problems on her legs. According to the plaintiff’s allegations, the physician did not evaluate, examine or even look at her legs before prescribing an antibiotic known to cause pressure around the brain in women of Ashley’s age and size.

The lawsuit also contends the dosage of the antibiotic prescribed by Baker was too high.

Ashley was complaining of a number of ailments when she saw her family doctor again Oct. 4, 2010, including a nearly month-long severe headache and blurred vision, Harrison wrote.

But without performing an eye examination or asking her to see a specialist, Baker wrongly diagnosed her with sinusitis and tension headache, the lawsuit contends.

Eleven days later, Ashley was examined by Conner for the first time. After conducting a brain-imaging scan, Conner discovered Ashley had twice as much water in her spinal fluid than normal, which was placing pressure on her optic nerve.

After reducing the fluid, the woman’s headache disappeared. However, her lawsuit argues the two weeks between her first visit to Conner and the day the fluid was drained was negligently long.

While Ashley contends Baker prescribed too much antibiotic, the lawsuit claims Conner prescribed too little of a medication used for reducing spinal fluid production to provide acceptable medical benefits.

By the time Conner scheduled a follow-up exam 14 days after the excess fluid was removed, Ashley’s vision had deteriorated so rapidly and severely that she was legally blind, the lawsuit states.

“If she had been treated in an urgent and timely manner, more likely than not she would have had very little permanent vision damage,” Harrison wrote.

The couple is claiming it was the failure of both physicians to comply with established standards of care that resulted in permanent vision impairment.

Without giving specific details, Harrison also stated an opinion issued by a medical review panel will support his clients.

Upon the advice of their attorneys, both physicians have responded to dispositions and other forms of pretrial questioning by stating they have insufficient information to either confirm or deny allegations.

However, recent court filings indicate Baker’s attorney, Jon M. Pinnick of Indianapolis, and David Scott Strite of Louisville, who represents Conner, will argue that Ashley failed to give the physicians accurate information about her medical history, the prescriptions she had been taking and changes in her condition, including her loss of vision.

The almost three-year delay in bringing the medical malpractice case to trial comes largely from time taken to collect subpoena medical and pharmacy records, court records state.

However, other filings indicate there were also postponements resulting from:

A prolonged search for a special judge

Several motions filed by either side

Changes in attorneys

Seeking expert testimony

Because Conner resides in Bartholomew County, it has been determined that holding the trial in Columbus is a proper venue, court records state.

Due to an anticipated large number of spectators and witnesses, the trial will be held in the Bartholomew Superior Court 1 courtroom, which has the largest seating capacity in the courthouse.

Five days have been set aside for the trial.

HELLO !!!…putting things on the internet can piss a lot of people off and make you look stupid ?

Apparently this young pharmacy technician from AL… felt compelled to get creative and create a parody song of Adele’s new hit song “HELLO”. Some have posted that she works at a BIG BOX store… the one that has the FOUR DOLLAR VALUE PRESCRIPTION MENU.

I have a Pharmacist friend that just retired from working years for this same company in MS… MS, like AL… has above average poor/poorly educated population and some of the stories that he has relayed to be about the demands, demeanor and expectations of way too many Rx pts … makes you want to shake your head in disbelief. But in talking with Rx dept staff in other companies and other parts of the country.. this kind of behavior is not isolate to these two states. It seems to becoming a epidemic of rudeness.

Let’s face it.. in a pharmacy you are dealing with many sick people who may not be feeling well and they are having to spend money on something that they would rather no purchase in the first place and could be costing them more than they can really afford.

IMO, Pharmacists tend to be spineless, ball-less pleasers and their corporate employers want to make all customers happy.. or at least not hear from unhappy customers… at corporate HQ. Ignorance is bliss concept.

Much of what this young woman states in her recording is unfortunately true for way too many pts. Some of this is caused by practitioners telling pts one set of directions and writing different directions on the prescription. Others are because the practitioner is “token dosing” the pt.. not really giving the pt high enough dose to properly treat the intensity of their subjective disease (pain, depression, anxiety, mental health).

IMO, this young woman’s attempt at some humor.. “Weird Al” Yankovic she is not… didn’t even come close to its target and has offended many with serious chronic diseases. I am sure that this mindset did not evolve with her.. all by herself and these types of comments are quite common on “closed” Face Book pages that are devoted to “angry Pharmacist/technicians” which the general public are never able to witness/read.

We have all done dumb/stupid things in our youth.. that are only known to ourselves or a friend or two.. Today, thanks to the internet some young people who do stupid things.. they get to share their stupidity with thousands or MILLIONS.

I vote to give her a break … for saying OUT LOUD on the internet what a whole hell of a lot of Pharmacists and technicians are saying behind your back.

election year politics.. and they claim that there is intelligent life on this planet

lmaoLawmakers try to outdo each other on heroin epidemic

We spend at least 51 billion trying in fighting the war on drugs and keeping abt 2 million serious substance abusers from abusing legal/illegal drugs.. that is about $25,000 per capita…. and we spend some $9,000 per capita for all healthcare in this country. Some in Congress believes that we can resolve this “epidemic” by committing abt $300 per capita to provide treatment and prevention to get all those substance abusers back on the “right track”. We have spent > ONE TRILLION DOLLARS since we officially declared the war on drugs in 1970. We now have EIGHT TIMES the number of people working for the DEA than 1970 and untold numbers of law enforcement at city/county/state level fighting this war on drugs. That 600 MILLION EMERGENCY SPENDING BILL is 0.002% of what we now spend annually fighting the war on drugs. Election year politics… are the politicians that stupid or is the electorate that stupid to believe this ? Unfortunately, they are both true 🙁

WASHINGTON — Is the heroin epidemic becoming a political football? It started to look that way in the Senate on Thursday, as Republicans and Democrats tried to one-up each other with legislative proposals aimed at addressing the crisis.

First, Republicans greased the legislative skids for a treatment-and-prevention bill championed by Ohio Sen. Rob Portman — one of the Senate’s most vulnerable GOP senators in the 2016 elections. The Senate Judiciary Committee approved the legislation Thursday morning, and Portman said Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., promised him a quick Senate floor vote on the bill.

“This is for real,” Portman told Ohio reporters after the committee vote. “This will make a difference in the lives of the people who I represent.”

An hour later, Senate Democrats said the Portman-backed bill was a great first step, but without money attached, it wouldn’t make a significant dent in the epidemic. They called for a $600 million “emergency spending bill” to fund prevention, treatment, and recovery programs.

“We don’t want to just have a little fig leaf out there,” said Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y. “All the rhetoric in the world isn’t going to help expand access to naloxone and prevent overdose deaths. Endless Senate speeches won’t mean more beds in treatment centers.”

The dueling press events hint at a potential showdown over the heroin crisis. Even as lawmakers say the opioid epidemic should be a bipartisan issue, because it has hit every geographic and demographic corner of the country, they are competing to take credit for offering the most aggressive and effective response.

Advocates say they welcome the attention, even if it is driven by political considerations ahead of the 2016 elections.

“For a number of years, many lawmakers looked the other way,” said Grant Smith, deputy director for national affairs at the Drug Policy Alliance, which advocates for treating addiction as a public health issue instead of a law enforcement problem. “They didn’t even want to say the words ‘drug overdose,’ even though tens of thousands of people were dying.”

” … So if this is in fact becoming more political, in a way I would welcome that,” Smith said. “It shows there’s an eagerness to get something done on this issue.”

That eagerness was on full display Thursday, as the Senate Judiciary Committee unanimously approved the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act, or CARA. That bill, sponsored by Portman and Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., among others, would:

• Authorize grants to states, local governments, and nonprofit groups for education and prevention efforts to combat opioid and heroin abuse

• Promote funding alternatives to incarceration for those with substance-abuse problems

• Expand first-responders’ access to naloxone, a medication that can reverse the effects of an opioid overdose

• Launch a demonstration program using medication-assisted treatment, a highly effective regimen for opioid addicts

“Over 20 people will die this week in Ohio” from opioid overdoses, Portman said. “This is a chance for the federal government to step up and be a better partner.”

The measure, which enjoys broad bipartisan support, could come up in the full Senate later this month. Although the bill calls for devoting as much as $80 million to treatment, prevention, and recovery, CARA does not include any actual money. That would have to come through an appropriations bill.

Enter Schumer and other Democrats, who plan to offer their emergency funding bill as an amendment to the CARA bill when it comes up for debate.

“This is a national health emergency and we need a federal response to address it,” said Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, a Democrat from New Hampshire, which has been hard-hit by the opioid crisis. Her bill would increase funding for existing federal and state programs.

It would, for example, send $225 million to the states to expand prevention, treatment, and recovery programs. It would provide another $200 million for state and local law enforcement programs, including drug treatment and education.

The CARA bill makes good policy changes, Shaheen said, but Congress needs to send money to treatment providers and first responders who are on the front lines of the epidemic. She noted that in 2009, Congress appropriated more than $2 billion to combat the swine flu epidemic. And in 2014, lawmakers approved $5 billion for Ebola, which only killed one person in the U.S. That same year, 47,000 Americans died of drug overdoses.

“We are not going to get … this under control unless the federal government steps up and provides resources,” she said.

Schumer, who is in line to become the Senate’s majority leader if Democrats regain control of the Senate, essentially dared Republicans to oppose the extra money. He accused Republicans of talking a good game on the heroin epidemic and other issues, but suggested their motivations might be political.

Republicans offer legislation to authorize increased spending and “put the names of senators who are up for re-election on them,” Schumer said, but they don’t follow up with real dollars when it comes to approving spending bills. “We are here to hold their feet to the fire,” he said.

Portman noted that Schumer is a co-sponsor of the CARA bill and he voted for it Thursday. Asked whether he would support the additional money, Portman said it was important to pass the CARA bill first, and that would lead to increased funding.

“I’m not against more funding,” Portman said. But CARA will provide “a new framework for how you spend the money,” making sure it goes to effective programs that steer addicts away from prisons and into treatment, among other changes.

Tonda DaRe, an Ohio mother who testified in support of the CARA bill at a Judiciary Committee hearing last month, said she is thrilled lawmakers are scrambling to offer solutions to the epidemic. DaRe, who lost her daughter to a heroin overdose, said it would be “fantastic” if Congress approved both the policy changes and the increased funding.

“Somehow, somewhere all of a sudden this is on everybody’s radar,” she said. “I’m thankful for that. Hopefully there will be many less lost children.”

If you are substance abuser.. best place to have a job … LAW ENFORCEMENT

Deal cop suspended on suspicion of drug use before death

Capt. Earl Alexander IV was off duty since August, chief said

The Deal police captain killed in a crash Jan. 2 — who was found to have drugs and alcohol in his blood at the time he died — had been suspended with pay since August 2015, according to Chief Ronen Neuman.

Neuman couldn’t say what triggered the internal affairs investigation, other than confirming authorities had reasonable suspicion Capt. Earl B. Alexander IV was using drugs. The Deal Police Department doesn’t randomly drug test police officers, according to Neuman.

“At the end of the day,” he said, “whatever happened, it was his doing and he hurt himself and it cost — he paid the ultimate price for his negligence.”

READ: Deal police captain impaired in fatal crash

Alexander, 38, died when he lost control of his 2007 Acura TSX and hit a utility pole on Norwood Avenue near Perrine Avenue in Ocean Township. The official toxicology report following his death showed a dozen chemicals — including illegal designer drugs commonly known as “bath salts” — and more than twice the legal limit of alcohol in his blood.

While the Attorney General’s Office mandates that police departments test new hires and test when there is reasonable suspicion of drug use, the policy says departments “may” choose to implement a random drug testing program.

A copy of the borough’s policy shows random drug testing is required for employees who have a commercial drivers license or whose service contracts require random testing.

Alexander’s blood showed signs of a prescription antidepressant sold as Lexapro, prescription sleep medication sold as Ambien, and amphetamine, which can be prescribed to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder or narcolepsy, though it wouldn’t normally be prescribed in combination with the other two legal drugs, according to Dr. Lawrence J. Guzzardi, a doctor who reviewed the report for the Asbury Park Press.

Deal police policy dictates that an officer has to notify the department if they’re taking prescription medication. Neuman said this involves an officer providing him with a prescription for the medication.

He said the department didn’t receive any prescriptions from Alexander.

READ: Police officers from Deal, Brick mourned

Neuman said he is considering implementing a random drug testing policy. But he wouldn’t change any other policies. He said the department was reaccredited by the state about a year ago.

“We have model policies,” he said.

He expressed a mixed opinion on random testing.

He agreed that “of course” random drug testing would be a deterrent for officers who might consider taking drugs.

But he also expressed doubt.

“I don’t think it really weeds out — cause if you check a few guys — at the end of the day, if we do a test today, the guys know probably for a few months you’re not going to have a test,” he said.

“At the end of the day, it’s not the random drug testing, it’s the other officers on the street that are telling you what’s going on.”

READ: Brick police announce death of officer battling cancer

Joseph J. Blaettler, a former deputy chief of police for Union City who testifies in court as an expert witness on police policy, said it’s common for departments to have a protocol for random testing, but it often isn’t used.

“I believe very few departments actually do random testing,” he said.

He described random testing as a useful tool. He said more people struggling with substance abuse might seek help if they knew their department did random testing.

“Would it be wise for the attorney general just to mandate the policy? Probably. Because without the mandate, a lot of police departments are just not going to do it on their own.”

He pointed out that in New Jersey if an officer has a substance abuse problem and seeks help, the department won’t discipline or fire the officer.

“I would urge any police officer that knows he has a problem or she has a problem, whether it’s alcohol or drugs, go to your employee assistance program immediately,” he said.

Police investigated where Alexander might be getting drugs, but Neuman said, “nothing came of it.”The department launched a second internal affairs investigation after the crash that killed Alexander, as they would anytime an officer is involved in a crash, according to Neuman. Both that investigation, and the one into Alexander’s suspected drug use, remain open. No other members of the department have been implicated, according to Neuman.

READ: Funeral arrangements set for Deal police captain

Following the fatal crash in another jurisdiction, Neuman said the Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office would be responsible for looking into where Alexander got the drugs found in his blood.

First Assistant Prosecutor Marc LeMieux said the case of Alexander’s crash was closed.

“This was a motor vehicle accident and there was no criminality to this accident,” he said.

Neuman said he hadn’t disciplined Alexander inbefore the August suspension and that Alexander had no record of substance abuse issues.

“Absolutely not,” he said. “That’s the sad part about this whole case, is that he was a model officer, he moved up to the rank of captain, for a few years he hasn’t even used a sick day.”

Stephen Carasia, borough administrator and former police chief of almost five years, also said he was “absolutely not” aware of Alexander abusing drugs or alcohol.

With Alexander’s death, Neuman lost his right-hand man. They went to Ocean Township High School together, they started out as patrolmen together, they rose through the ranks together. As administrators of the 17-officer department, they ran day-to-day operations together.

Carasia said Alexander entered the department as a dispatcher. He was hired May 1, 1998. He was appointed as a class II officer in 1999.

“Throughout his whole career, he was definitely a good officer,” Carasia said. “He loved his job, was always here, always working, always ready to work when he was called upon.”

Neuman said Alexander once stopped a suspected bank robber while off-duty.

In addition to his position with Deal police, Alexander served as assistant chief of Deal Fire Company 2, was the former chief of the Oakhurst Fire Department and was a volunteer with both first aid squads.

Neuman said he would respond to calls in the middle of the night.

“If there was a first aid call at 2, 3, 4 in the morning, a fire call, he’d come to work,” Neuman said, “And he’s like: ‘you know that fire you saw on TV, I was there til 5 in the morning, I was there til an hour ago.’”

Neuman said he once saved a woman’s life by performing CPR.

“At the end of the day, you’ve got to judge every person on his own character,” Neuman said. “You can’t judge me because someone in my department did something wrong. Every business has got someone that’s not doing the right thing and we try to address it every day. And no one’s perfect.”

Andrew Ford: 732-643-4281;

Best place to have a job when you are a criminal – LAW ENFORCEMENT ?

DEA task force member arrested by state police in drug probe

Louisiana State Police have arrested a second investigator assigned to a U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration task force.
Maj. Doug Cain, a State Police spokesman, says they are scrutinizing cases made by the task force officers where drugs and cash seized in raids disappeared or were never recorded as evidence.
Cain says 49-year-old Karl Newman, a longtime deputy with the Tangipahoa Parish Sheriff’s Office, was booked Thursday on counts of conspiracy to distribute cocaine and abuse of office.
Cain says Newman is being held without bail in the St. Tammany Parish Jail.
Cane says the arrest comes a month after troopers booked Johnny Domingue, another Tangipahoa Parish Sheriff’s Office deputy who had been assigned to the DEA task force.

A mental health epidemic ?

CABELL COUNTY, W.Va. (WSAZ) — A WSAZ investigation into the heroin epidemic in Cabell County quickly went viral. Now, we are following up with the young man shown overdosing and the paramedics who saved him in that shocking body camera video.

In WSAZ Investigates: A Dose of Reality, 26-year-old Joey overdoses on heroin in his Barboursville home. His mom calls 911, and Cabell County EMS Supervisor Chad Ward arrives on scene first.

Chad’s body camera is rolling as he finds Joey lying on his bed, turning blue and only breathing twice a minute. He is just minutes from death. More paramedics arrive and they give Joey Narcan, a drug that reverses an overdose.

In just a matter of minutes, Joey is awake and walking. The dramatic scene is shown through the eyes of Chad — a scene he and his paramedics see every single day.

“I want these people to know, you were on death’s door,” said Chad. “I know it doesn’t seem like it now, but truly you were. Another five or 10 minutes could have made a big difference.”

After the story first aired, it went viral. The web article was viewed more than 300,000 times in just a couple of days. The story was also featured on national websites, was the number one story in the news section of Reddit, and was shared thousands of times on social media across the country.

“I never believed it was going to get that big,” Chad said. “When you get a story and it gets out that big, maybe it helped one person to quit doing heroin — decide, ‘This is not for me. I don’t want to risk it.’ Or maybe it helped one person to say, ‘I’m never going to try heroin. I see what it can do.’ Either way, if we helped one person, it was a great story. It was worth it.”

One person the story did help is Joey. After the story aired, Joey posted a message to his friends and family on Facebook explaining that he planned on seeking help and going to rehab.

“I can’t continue to live this way anymore,” said Joey’s post. “I want better things to happen in my life and if I continue on the path I am in, I will be dead. Time to improve my life.”

After our story aired, he posted again, saying he didn’t give us permission to use the video for attention, but to bring awareness to the drug epidemic. He wants to help other people who are struggling.

Joey’s sister also spoke to WSAZ, saying the story was a wake-up call for her brother.

“I hope and pray this opens people’s eyes,” said Emmi, Joey’s sister. “Thank you, Kaitlynn LeBeau, for doing this documentary. Hopefully it’s saving lives.”

Chad said he is glad to see the video is eye-opening for Joey and his family.

“It is a wonderful feeling to that that OK, we did this story and now this young man might get some help, might get past this addiction,” Chad said. That just feels good — there’s no other way to put it.”

Chad, Joey and Emmi all say they hope this story continues to make a nationwide impact — showing the reality of the heroin problem and that there are real people behind the overdose statistics.

“I hope people keep seeing it; I hope it changes people,” Chad said. “Anything we can do that is going to eventually help is what we need to be doing.”

CABELL COUNTY, W.Va. (WSAZ) — A 911 call comes in to Cabell County EMS. The caller is a worried mother. She just found her son unconscious in their Barboursville home. He’s turning blue and barely breathing. A used needle lays on the floor next to his bed. He is minutes from death.

The first to arrive at the home is EMS supervisor Chad Ward. His body camera is recording the disturbing but familiar scene.

“A lot of times you’ll hear people refer to Huntington as Little Detroit,” said Chad. “I never believed we’d be treating 2 and 3 heroin overdoses a day. Never.”

It’s a cold Sunday night. Chad arrives and is greeted at the door by Mary.

“He might be dead,” said Mary. “I have no idea what he took.”

Chad is calm. He’s responded to a heroin overdose dozens of times before. He enters a back bedroom and sees Joey unresponsive on the bed.

“Alright, honey, let me work with him,” Chad reassures Mary.

The body camera scans the room — Chad is looking for the needle Joey used to shoot up. He finds it on the floor and tells Mary not to touch it.

“Just leave it there; just leave it there,” Chad tells her.

He moves Joey on to the floor and begins giving him oxygen. Joey’s heartbeat is strong, but he’s only breathing twice a minute. Chad is working against the clock.

This is a normal day for Chad and his paramedics.

“I don’t know what brings anybody to it,” Chad tells WSAZ. “Anxiety, depression, just looking for something to do. It’s hard to say. But it is truly everywhere.”

In 2015, there were 944 drug overdoses in Cabell County. That’s up more than 300% from 2014.

944 reported overdoses in 2015
272 reported overdoses in 2014
256 reported overdoses in 2013
146 reported overdoses in 2012

Out of the total number of overdoses, 70 proved fatal — the deadliest year the county has seen for drug overdoses. Chad fears 2016 will be just as grim.

“I think it’s going to get worse before it gets better,” said Chad. “And honestly, I don’t know what will make it better.”

He also worries that the staggering numbers pack little punch now-a-days. He understands why, though. He has responded to 7 overdoses in one day. Some of his paramedics have responded to as many as 14 in one day of work.

“Every day that we go on an overdose, I just think oh my goodness, here we go again, here we go again, here we go again,” said Brenda Johnson, a Cabell County paramedic.

Brenda has been a paramedic for Cabell County for 14 years. When she started her career, she had no idea how many of her patients she would be treating for an overdose.

“Once they start using it then it’s hard to let go of it,” said Brenda.

But it’s not just addicts, she said. It can be a gamble for first-time users — especially if the heroin is laced.

“It may be a situation where they’re going to try it one time, you know just that one time, but they don’t realize that one time could be the last time they try it,” said Brenda.

Some of the additional drugs that heroin can be laced with are incredibly dangerous and even lethal.

“It will literally just kill them in a matter of minutes,” said Chad. “Some of these drugs are mixed with light fluid and phosphorus and things you would never dream about putting in your body.”

About four minutes have gone by when more paramedics arrive to help Chad. They immediately begin prepping Joey for Narcan — a drug that reverses an overdose.

“Everybody’s heard about Narcan and what an amazing drug it is and literally it will take somebody from the edge of death to back alert and oriented just like we’re talking now,” said Chad.

But although Narcan saves lives, and could save Joey’s, Chad and many of his paramedics say it’s creating more concern than comfort for them. Brenda says Narcan is giving drug users a false sense of security.

“That scares me because I’m afraid the people who are using or abusing these drugs are going to get into the mindset of, ‘Well, somebody’s going to have Narcan. It’s going to be close by so I’m okay. Even if I overdose, somebody’s going to save me,'” said Brenda. “You know, some we can save, some we can’t.”

The paramedics give Joey Narcan. Less than a minute and a half later, Joey takes a deep breath. He’s awake and the paramedics begin asking him what drugs he took.

“Heroin — did you shoot heroin?” Chad asks.

“A tiny bit, yeah,” Joey responds after some hesitation. The paramedics have to reassure Joey that they are not the cops and are there to help — something they have to do often on overdose calls, Chad said.

“Now, Joey, listen to me man,” Chad says as Joey stands up. “About ten more minutes, you’d be dead. I’m not kidding you, I’m not lying to you, I’m not trying to scare you. Somebody hadn’t been here about 10 more minutes, you’d be laying there dead as a doornail right now.”

Joey has a second chance at life, but the paramedics know for as many people as they save, there will be another overdose.

They just saved someone’s child, but Chad says one of the most heart-breaking experiences is interacting with children who have found their parents unresponsive.

“It’s harder to deal probably with the children and try to make them understand and comfort them than it is to deal with the patient themselves,” said Chad. “You’re trying to comfort them. You’re trying to tell them and they’re, ‘What’s going on? Is mommy dead?’ And you know, depending on the situation, you have to try to explain to these children at their level what’s going on. You know, that they’ve taken something bad it looks like and we’re going to try to help em out and make ’em well again.”

The same calls stick with Brenda.

“That to me is very disheartening, that’s very disheartening,” said Brenda. “To think that you would have small children in your house that are depending on you to keep them safe and then this person is engaging in that kind of activity. But here, again, it’s an addiction.”

Chad has responded to homes where an entire family has overdosed: Mother, father and son.

“I walked in and thought, how does one family, the entire family, get involved in this?” said Chad. “What’s going on in their lives that they think this is good for everybody?”

Many of the calls they go on are for patients they have treated for an overdose before. After saving their lives with Narcan, they just begin using again.

“It’s kind of sad when you roll up on a scene and look at somebody and you know immediately who they are because of the fact that you’ve picked them up before for a drug overdose,” said Brenda.

As more people become addicted, Brenda and Chad say there is yet to be a real solution to the problem.

“I don’t see it slowing down any time soon,” said Chad. “I only see it getting worse.”

“The only solution is to educate as many people as we can about this epidemic and get the people who are using drugs treatment,” said Brenda.

The family featured in this story did not want to be interviewed, but gave WSAZ permission to show the video.