Tag Archives: Drugs

Misusing Painkillers: Dose Of Reality

.jpg photo of TX Ag at press conference
Attorney General Paxton was joined at a press conference by Department of State Health Services Commissioner Dr. John Hellerstedt and Health and Human Services Executive Commissioner Courtney N. Phillips.

AG Paxton Launches New Dose of Reality
Website to Educate Texans About the
Dangers of Opioid Abuse

AUSTIN, TX  –  In his office’s latest initiative to combat the nation’s opioid crisis, Attorney General Ken Paxton today launched Dose of Reality, a new comprehensive website to inform and educate Texans about the dangers of misusing prescription painkillers.

The new site is available at DoseofReality.Texas.gov

Attorney General Paxton was joined at a press conference by Department of State Health Services Commissioner Dr. John Hellerstedt and Health and Human Services Executive Commissioner Courtney N. Phillips.

“The misuse and abuse of prescription opioids cost lives and devastate Texas families in every region of our state,” Attorney General Paxton said.  “Opioids such as OxyContin and hydrocodone are prescribed by doctors to treat moderate to severe pain, but have serious risks and side effects.  When patients are not well informed, these drugs can inflict far more pain than they prevent.  The Dose of Reality website is intended to give Texans the information they need to avoid those unintended consequences.  My office will continue to do everything it can to protect Texans from the opioid crisis.”

Dose of Reality provides individuals, patients, health care providers, teachers, coaches and others with opioid-related resources in one location, allowing for quick and easy access to vital information.

The new website includes details on approaches to preventing opioid abuse and addiction, proper pain management, safe storage of prescription painkillers and guidelines on responding to an opioid overdose.  It also features a statewide take back map of locations that accept prescription opioids for safe disposal.

Opioids are a family of drugs that include prescription painkillers such as OxyContin as well as illegal drugs like heroin.

Each day, 115 Americans die of opioid overdoses.

Nationwide, there were 42,249 opioid overdoses in 2016, including 1,375 opioid-related deaths in Texas.

The death toll attributed to opioids in the U.S. has quadrupled over the last two decades.

In 2017, Attorney General Paxton and a bipartisan group of 40 other state attorneys general initiated an investigation into whether companies that manufacture and distribute prescription opioids engaged in unlawful practices.  Last May, Attorney General Paxton filed a major consumer protection lawsuit against Purdue Pharma for violating the Texas Deceptive Trade Practices Act involving the company’s prescription opioids, including OxyContin.

The nationally acclaimed and award-winning Dose of Reality website was conceived by the Wisconsin Department of Justice (DOJ), in September 2015 provided to Texas, Arkansas, Georgia, Maine, Minnesota and Nebraska at no cost.  Attorney General Paxton’s office partnered with the Wisconsin DOJ, Texas Health and Human Services Commission and the Texas Department of State Health Services on content development for DoseofReality.Texas.gov

To view the press conference, click here:
https://www.facebook.com/TexasAttorneyGeneral/videos/381897475701392/

Child Predators Should Be Locked Up

.jpg photo of Chicago psychiatric hospital
Chicago Lakeshore Hospital’s 60-bed children’s unit is Uptown. The hospital faces state and federal scrutiny after a rise in complaints alleging sexual and physical abuse.

Feds threaten to yank funding of
Uptown psychiatric hospital following
Child Abuse complaints

CHICAGO, IL  –  Federal authorities are once again threatening to cut off funding for an embattled Uptown psychiatric hospital beset by complaints of physical and sexual abuse of young patients, including foster children in state care.

Chicago Lakeshore Hospital officials said Friday they are “working to come into compliance with regulations” before a Dec. 15 federal deadline.  With more than 80 percent of its patients receiving Medicare or Medicaid benefits, hospital officials said the facility may shutter, reducing access to mental health services.  Layoffs began within the last few days, officials said.

Also Friday, a federal judge tapped experts at a Chicago university to do an independent review of the safety of children at the hospital, and Illinois health officials said they may pull the psychiatric facility’s state license.

The Illinois Department of Children and Family Services stopped admitting children in its care to the hospital one month ago amid an increased number of hotline calls alleging harmful conditions.  DCFS also began transferring foster children out of the hospital and stationing staff inside the facility 24 hours a day to better monitor its remaining patients.

Those steps were taken under pressure from child welfare watchdog groups and state lawmakers after separate reports about the hospital’s recent problems by the Chicago Tribune and ProPublica Illinois.

The final foster child left the hospital Friday afternoon, said DCFS spokesman Neil Skene.  He said all are in foster homes or residential treatment facilities with support services.  While transferring children, two 17-year-old boys ran away in separate incidents, but both have been located, Skene said.

The hospital pledged to work with state and federal agencies to fix the problems.  It’s unclear, though, what inroads Chicago Lakeshore can make before a deadline that’s just two weeks away.  After another threat a few months ago to cut off government funding, the hospital asked a federal judge to intervene, then withdrew its request when regulators agreed to give the hospital more time.

On Friday, Lakeshore officials would only say that “options are being explored.”

“Many of the children we serve have no place else to go, and we offer the best hope for their stabilization and return to society,” Dr. Peter Nierman, the hospital’s chief medical officer, said in a statement.  “Frankly, this is a population that virtually no other facility wants to take, and I believe that without Lakeshore, the already tragic story of some of these children will only be further exacerbated.”

DCFS launched at least its 20th hotline investigation last week.  The latest complaint accused hospital staff of inadequate supervision regarding sexual activity between teenage patients.  It was the fourth hotline call in recent weeks, including a Nov. 19 complaint involving a 9-year-old patient who accused a staff member of choking her while trying to restrain the child.

The hospital had only about 17 total hotline investigations in the prior three years, according to DCFS statistics.  Most of this year’s hotline investigations were sparked when hospital staff, who are required to report under state law, notified child welfare officials of the allegation.

The Illinois Department of Public Health, which licenses the hospital, had been inspecting Chicago Lakeshore in recent months mostly for regulatory safety issues, such as whether adequate suicide-prevention measures were in place regarding the length of telephone cords or the doors to empty rooms were properly secured.  The state health department contracts with the federal government, which is in charge of Medicaid and Medicare funding.

On Friday, state public health spokeswoman Melaney Arnold said recent media reports led the agency to also investigate complaints alleging young patients were physically or sexually abused.  Inspectors found the hospital staff failed to notify state health officials about the complaints as required, and that the facility often failed to take corrective action or launch sufficient investigations, according to the reports.

State health officials recommended termination of federal funding and are “looking at license suspension or revocation,” Arnold said.

On the federal front, the hospital was informed of the Dec. 15 deadline to cut off funding in a certified letter dated Thursday.

“We have determined that the deficiencies are so serious they constitute an immediate threat to patient health and safety,” wrote Nadine Renbarger, an associate regional administrator of the federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.  “The deficiencies limit the capacity of your facility to render adequate care and ensure the health and safety of your patients.”

In recent weeks, DCFS repeatedly has been hauled into federal court as it battles with the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois over concerns about the psychiatric facility.  The ACLU, which monitors DCFS through a decades-old federal consent decree, called for an outside review of the hospital.

During a court hearing Friday, U.S. District Judge Jorge Alonso approved the University of Illinois at Chicago psychiatry department to oversee the review, which the hospital said it welcomed.

Chicago Lakeshore Hospital knows improvements can be made and we will continue to steadfastly make those improvements, but shutting us down is tantamount to throwing out the baby with the bathwater,” hospital CEO David Fletcher-Janzen said in a statement.

Alonso also ruled that a retired federal judge will be appointed with decision-making authority to help DCFS and the ACLU iron out its frequent disputes in the consent decree case.  DCFS unsuccessfully opposed the ACLU’s request for a so-called “special master,” instead favoring a facilitator without as much authority.

Chicago Lakeshore is one of the largest hospitals for psychiatric services in Illinois. An estimated one-quarter of DCFS kids who need inpatient psychiatric services are treated there, and many languish beyond their scheduled discharge date as the state agency struggles to find homes with appropriate services.

If the hospital closes, DCFS officials said the larger challenge is not just the dwindling number of psychiatric beds but the need for “a more robust mental health system to provide more treatment to more people in their own communities, without hospitalization.”

“The capacity of the mental health system is not just a DCFS challenge but a challenge for the state of Illinois,” DCFS Acting Director Beverly “B.J.” Walker said in a statement.  “We need to put more attention on ways to reduce the need for psychiatric hospitalization.”

Justice For Leiliana

.jpg photo of a little girl that probably didn't have many good days in her life.
Leiliana Wright

‘You should die in a locked closet,’ judge
tells man convicted in savage beating
death of 4-year-old

A Grand Prairie man was convicted of capital murder in the “savage” beating death of his girlfriend’s 4-year-old daughter in a case the judge said was the worst he’d ever seen.

The Children Pay This Tab

Charles Wayne Phifer, 36, received an automatic life sentence without the possibility of parole for the March 2016 murder of Leiliana Wright.

CPS Failed Leiliana Wright

Leiliana was beaten with a bamboo switch and belts and thrown against a wall.  Her mother, 33-year-old Jeri Quezada, pleaded guilty to felony injury to a child as part of a plea agreement that will lock her behind bars for 50 years.

CPS Ignored Possible Sexual Abuse Of Leiliana

Quezada will be formally sentenced by the judge Wednesday, and relatives will have the chance to give a victim impact statement at that time to both Quezada and Phifer.

Child Abuse Registry Needed

Quezada testified against Phifer, who she said bound Leiliana’s hands behind her back and strung the little girl up in a closet.

I Let Leiliana Wright Down

State District Judge Robert Burns told Phifer that life behind bars was insufficient for what Leiliana suffered.

“I think this is the worst case I’ve ever seen,” Burns told Phifer.

“Hanging a little girl in a locked closet was savage.  You should die in a locked closet,” the judge said.

Jurors deliberated for about four hours before delivering the guilty verdict.

Many were visibly shaken during the three days of testimony, during which they were shown photos of Leiliana’s battered body.

The little girl was covered from head to toe in bruises and had at least 30 bruises on her back from where she was whipped.

Defense attorneys John Tatum and Stephen Miller argued that Quezada is a liar who was trying to save herself by blaming Phifer for her daughter’s death.

“She set Charles up because that was the only way to get out of this,” Miller said.

Leiliana’s death exposed a staffing crisis in Child Protective Services. The girl’s paternal grandparents reported possible abuse to the state agency months before she was killed.

Quezada was a known drug user and had run-ins with child protection authorities in Texas and Illinois, where she received probation for hitting her stepson.

Quezada had five children, including Leiliana, with three different men.  The surviving four children are living with relatives.

“Charles Phifer does not have any motive to hurt or do anything to this child,” Miller said.  “He’s living in a house rent free with no obligations.  Why would he screw that up?”

“She’s the one who keeps having kids she doesn’t want,” he said.

A medical report presented by defense attorneys shows that Leiliana had bruises on her body at least a month before her death.  Defense counsel argued that the prior abuse shows Quezada was responsible for her girl’s death.

During trial, Quezada admitted that she would sometimes hit her daughter.  She said she used a switch made from bamboo to strike the little girl’s legs.

Prosecutors Eren Price and Travis Wiles argued that Quezada and Phifer were responsible for Leiliana’s death but that Phifer was the one who was alone with the child for hours the day of her deadly beating.

Price disputed the defense counsel’s accusation that Quezada was simply saving herself by pinning Leiliana’s death on Phifer.

“I’m not sure the next 50 years in prison can be considered saving your own skin,” Price argued.

The prosecutor said someone needed to shed light on what happened to Leiliana, and Quezada’s story was backed up by evidence.

A strand of the girl’s hair was found embedded in the wall where Quezada said Phifer threw the girl.  Leiliana’s DNA was also found on gloves used by Phifer, a DNA expert testified during the trial.

Quezada said she saw her daughter vomit in the living room and then Phifer put on gloves, grab the girl by her cheeks, lift her from the ground and pour Pedialyte down the child’s throat.

The mother also said Phifer showed her where he had tied up Leiliana in a dark, tiny closet in the living room.  Leiliana’s wrists were bound behind her body and she was “strung up” so she couldn’t sit.

“There’s nothing warm and fuzzy about this story,” Wiles said during closing arguments.  “The last loving arms that reached out for Leiliana Wright were the strong, loving arms of a stranger.”

During the trial, a paramedic who tried to save Leiliana cried recounting how badly bruised the little girl was.

Wiles said Quezada’s story about the 48 hours or so before Leiliana’s death is corroborated by cellphone records.

Those records showed Quezada was away with her youngest child for much of the day.  She testified she went with her family to eat at an Arlington steakhouse that night.  Quezada’s mother confirmed.

Leiliana stayed with Phifer.

“This man was trusted not just with her care but her life, and he took it,” Wiles argued.

Quezada returned to the Grand Prairie home after 9 p.m.  She said that when she got there, her first concern was using heroin with Phifer.

She later asked about Leiliana, and that’s when she discovered her daughter was in the closet.

“In life, Leiliana Wright deserved peace.  In her death, she deserves justice,” Wiles said.

Mothers And Meth

Meth-Addicted Mothers and Child Abuse

THE ATLANTIC SELECTS
Video by Mary Newman

In the United States, methamphetamine is making a comeback.  Following the legalization of medical marijuana in California, Mexican cartels pivoted to the production of pure liquid meth, which is brought across the border and crystallized in conversion labs.  There is more meth on the streets than ever before, according to William Ruzzamenti, a 30-year Drug Enforcement Administration veteran and the Executive Director of the Central Valley California HIDTA (High-Intensity Drug Trafficking Area).  It’s also cheaper than ever—the average cost of an ounce of methamphetamine dropped from nearly $968 in 2013 to around $250 in 2016.

“I think a lot of people associate meth with the 1990s, and this comeback has gone largely unnoticed in the shadow of the heroin and opioid epidemics,” Mary Newman, a journalist at the Investigative Reporting Program at UC Berkeley, told The Atlantic.

Newman’s short documentary, Motherhood and Meth, focuses on the drug’s frequently overlooked and arguably most vulnerable victims: children.  Although no scientific research has been conducted that directly correlates meth addiction to child abuse or neglect, many experts on the subject report a connection that Newman describes as “staggering.”  In her film, Newman interviews Dr. Philip Hyden, a child abuse specialist who has worked across the U.S. for more than 30 years.  Since 2010, Dr. Hyden has served as the medical director at the Valley Children’s Hospital in Fresno, the poorest urban ZIP code in the state.  Fresno experiences a high incidence of child abuse, and Dr. Hyden attributes one cause to the high rate of methamphetamine addiction in the region.  He estimates that meth use is involved in over 70% of the 1,000 abuse cases the clinic sees each year.

“We see children that have been beaten or abused in many scenarios where the perpetrator was on meth at the time,” Dr. Hyden says in the film.  “We see things that are hard to believe that happen to kids.”

This abuse sometimes begins during pregnancy; an estimated 19,000 meth users in the U.S. are pregnant women.  In home environments where meth is manufactured, children almost always test positive for methamphetamine—often at levels as high as addicted users, according to an expert in the film.

To get a firsthand look at the effects of methamphetamine addiction on mothers and their children, Newman’s documentary follows law enforcement officers, professionals at treatment facilities, and mothers affected by meth addiction who admit to having neglected their kids.  Newman met many of these women at Fresno’s weekly free needle exchange.  She interviewed more than twenty women—some of whom agreed to participate, only to disappear once a shoot date was scheduled—before she found the subjects featured in the film.

“Once I built up some essential trust with women willing to share their struggles of addiction, I would ask if meth ever caused them or someone in their life to become violent,” Newman said.  “Everyone responded with an emphatic ‘yes.’”  Newman added that she heard “harrowing” stories about domestic violence, child abuse, and a generational cycle of meth addiction.  Many of the addicts she spoke to were either the child of a meth addict themselves or had experienced abuse early in life.

“The power methamphetamine has on a person’s life was the most surprising part of [reporting] this story,” Newman said.  “I would speak with people struggling with addiction and they would have a certain self-awareness that their decisions were derailing their life, but they would also describe a feeling of complete helplessness.” Newman said that several people—both addicts and experts—described meth as “evil” due to the sheer power over the people that use it.

“These kids are the ultimate victims,” says a police officer in the film.  “They didn’t ask for this.”

Human Trafficking Awareness

.jpg photo of National Human Trafficking Hotline graphic
HELP IS AVAILABLE!

Latest trends in U.S. Child Sex Trafficking

Today we are excited to share our newest research.  Survivors have graciously allowed us to hear their stories, and in order for us all to be a part of the solution, we’re excited to share their stories with you.

Explore the Findings

Participants’ age of entry into the life

  • Youngest age of entry was less than 1-year-old
  • One in six were under the age of 12
  • Most frequently reported age is 15

Two themes in U.S. child sex trafficking emerged from this report:

  1. Technology is playing an increasing role in grooming and controlling victims of child sex trafficking.  75% of victims who entered the life in the past decade were advertised online.
  2. Less familiar forms of child trafficking, including those trafficked by family members or without a clear trafficker, are emerging.  80% of all victims under 10 were trafficked by a family member.

Without survivor input, our anti-trafficking movement risks wasting time and resources — and most importantly, endangering children.  We are truly grateful to all of the organizations and survivors that shared their stories and made this work possible.

Today is #HumanTraffickingAwarenessDay, and our research also showed that 2 out of 3 survivors never saw a help resource during their abuse.  You can change that by sharing the Human Trafficking hotline today everywhere you have a community on social media.

Spread The Word

“Survivor insights keep us grounded in the reality and complexity of their experience so that the best interventions can be developed to defend children from sexual abuse.”
Brooke Istook, Director of Strategy & Operations