I want to provide another update. You have been extraordinary in your support, friendship, kindness, generosity, and empathy! We continue to be amazed how many of you have rallied to help us through our horrific tragedy. You have been incredible in every way. Please keep visiting and calling us.
Everyone tells us it gets better with time. Unfortunately, Julie and I haven't experienced that. The sadness is acute and all consuming. I can't authentically laugh or truly feel joy. We will never be the same. I want to do whatever I can to help others not go through this.
We are as passionate about and dedicated to our mission as ever. Every week we become more knowledgable about substance abuse. We read practically everything in print, and continue to meet with experts in the fields of addiction, mental health, education, law, non profits, and government. We add articles to our website regularly; we want it to be a resource for parents, friends, and those directly impacted by substance abuse. Please checkout our website (Jordanfiller.org) and Facebook page (The Jordan Michael Filler Foundation).
As drug abuse increases and hurts more people, the media is doing a great job increasing awareness of the seriousness of drug abuse in our country. There have been numerous studies showing that approximately 10 percent of our 12th grade children take prescription drugs that are not prescribed to them. Heroin use has increased 100 percent in five years. The U.S. has 1.5 million chronic heroin users. A majority of heroin users used prescription pain killers prior to switching to heroin. I beg you: if you suspect your family or friends are using prescription painkillers, get help or at least call us! Drugs kill more people than traffic accidents, suicide, and guns combined. Studies show that chronic marijuana use can reduce a person's IQ by over 5 percent.
In each of my letters and hundreds of discussions, I have talked about naloxone, an antidote for people that are experiencing an opiate (e.g., prescription pain killers and heroin) overdose. During the past six months, many states, counties, and cities across the country have mandated that firefighters, paramedics, and police officers carry this very safe drug. New states and municipalities are being added to this list. This is an enormous accomplishment! It works. Hundreds of lives have been saved this year as a result of this initiative. If you have family or friends that use opiates, you should have naloxone in your house. Jordan would have been saved if someone gave him naloxone before it was too late. Our website contains several articles on this topic.
We have narrowed the focus of our foundation. We have spent a thousand hours determining what the priorities are, what's being done, what is/isn't working, what is/isn't possible to accomplish, and where we can realistically have an impact. If you recall, I mentioned 12 potential goals in my last letter. We have narrowed it to three:
This comes in several forms. It includes giving speeches and presentations, teaching people and discussing substance abuse. It is attending meetings to listen, learn, talk, and educate. Education is talking to parents and children in our everyday lives. It also involves meeting with parents or children that reach out to us, because they are concerned for themselves or others. (We have met with dozens of people that have reached out to us. We love doing it, please continue to approach us).
One of the key messages we communicate is: substance abuse is a medical disease that should be treated accordingly. It is not a moral weakness or lack of willpower. Medications can help. We must kill the stigma, so people get help rather than hide the problem; so parents aren't embarrassed and put their heads in the sand; so users and their friends don't think of users as "losers". The problem gets worse with time, so it must be treated. It is not ok to "just smoke marijuana or drink" most days of the week.
There is also a more formal educational component: educating students in middle and high school. Study after study demonstrates the importance of this, there is no controversy. However, it's much easier said than done. Schools face serious budgetary and time constraints. This is a critical priority.
I am working closely with organizations at the local, Lake County, and state levels to make progress. This can be accomplished with hard work, grass roots efforts, tenacity, and financial support. The goal is to mandate a minimum level of evidence based curriculum in the schools. The holy grail would be to convince schools to implement a more comprehensive, evidence based program, beyond the minimum requirements. We want to discuss this enormously important goal with you. We need your support.
People die because treatment providers are not fully aware of what HIPPA does/does not allow. I honestly believe if Jordan's treatment providers had complete knowledge about HIPPA, he would not have died on January 12. I definitely know that if we knew he had relapsed, we would have placed him into treatment. Parents want and need to know when their child is in trouble. I have spoken to approximately 15 treatment providers (therapists, social workers, psychologists, psychiatrists) that don't know exactly when they are legally allowed to disclose their concern about the safety of a young adult patient. Every provider I have spoken to wants to involve parents when they are worried about a young adult, but many don't know when they are allowed to. It is legally "safer" to not disclose. Would you want to know if your young adult child was using serious drugs?
HIPPA allows disclosure when there is a threat of "serious and imminent" danger to oneself or others. However, most treatment providers are not certain what that means. HIPPA provides a "presumption" that the provider acted in good faith if they disclose their concern. Many treatment providers are not aware of this presumption or aren't certain what it means. In my opinion, treatment providers could legally have told us that Jordan was relapsing on heroin. We must do a better job of making sure treatment providers know what HIPPA allows. We can accomplish that.
Moreover, there are some minor changes to HIPPA that would have a big impact and save lives. For example, the words "serious AND imminent" threat could be changed to "serious OR imminent" threat. Alternatively, it could be softened by allowing disclosure to parents when danger is "likely," rather than a serious and imminent threat. Is "serious and imminent" when a person has a gun to their head or has a needle with a lethal dose of heroin about to enter their arm? The bar is set too high. Parents need to know if their children are in danger. This could be limited to children that are 26 or under, consistent with Obamacare's rule that children must be allowed on their parent's insurance thru age 26.
Another viable approach is to automatically notify parents or the authorities, when children up to age 26 sign themselves out of treatment "against medical advice."
I have spoken with politicians, lobbyists, doctors, and attorneys who feel we can accomplish these goals!
A partnership of community organizations and school districts have created a program in Lake Forest/Lake Bluff. The program provides an anonymous text-communication system for students in those communities. The system allows a student to send a text message to a secure, dedicated number and receive an immediate response. Local providers with expertise in addiction/mental health respond 24/7.
Students are more likely to disclose concerns about a friend when the text is anonymous. Most often, friends know more about their friend's substance abuse than his/her parents. If Jordan's friends in Utah told us that he was using heroin, we would have had a chance to save him. I don't blame them! Most students, including Jordan, don't want to "rat" on their friends and get caught. Lake Forest/Lake Bluff results show that the anonymous text is often from a student with his/her own issues. The student didn't feel comfortable reaching out to someone if they had to identify themselves or didn't know who to reach out to. The conversations can continue thru anonymous text or can elevate to a phone call if the student chooses.
This program has been very successful in Lake Forest/Lake Bluff. We will provide detailed results. We want to replicate it in our communities.
In order to accomplish these three goals, we need your financial support and/or your time, energy, and ideas. We would love your input on the three initiatives outlined above. Please think about whether you know any high profile person that would commit a small amount of time or otherwise support our mission: saving and improving lives of our children from drugs--this would be a huge help!! Please send tax deductible donations to: The Jordan Michael Filler Foundation, c/o Lisa and Tom Aronson, 2421 Shadow Creek Ln., Riverwoods, IL 60015. We extend a massive, heartfelt thanks to all of you who have made contributions!! You can't imagine how much that means to us!
Please join us for our first event, a 5K walk/run in Highland Park, on October 18! We promise it will be fun, informative, and for a great cause.
Very truly yours,