Lawmakers trying to create more access to life-saving drugs: ‘Minutes are brain cells’

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LANSING, Mich. (WLNS) — The story starts like too many others.

“Our kid scored a 32 on his ACT, was an honors student in high school,” said Phil Pavona, the founder of the Ingham County chapter of Families Against Narcotics. “He was a normal kid, didn’t struggle with drugs in high school and junior high.”

Eric Pavona got a scholarship to Ferris State University and appeared to be on a pathway to success, until the summer after his sophomore year.

“He hung out with the wrong crowd, he partied with the wrong pills and that kind of stole his soul,” Pavona said.

Eric died of an overdose in August of 2011 — he was 25-years-old.

And that wasn’t his only overdose. Eric had OD’d multiple times before — once requiring his father to break down the bathroom door and perform CPR for 15 minutes before his help arrived.

Pavona aid the Meridian Township Police were as kind as can be — but there was one problem.

“They did not have narcan,” Pavona said. “Obviously you know with supportive measures, saving lives, minutes are brain cells.”

That’s where he hopes a new package of bills that has been introduced in the Michigan legislature will help. The bills, with bi-partisan support, are designed to make life-saving drugs like Narcan (Naloxone) more available for community centers and improve treatment for opioid use disorder in emergency departments.

“Anything that makes medication more available to save lives is obviously a good thing,” Pavona said.

Nick DeMott — a former user who is now the program coordinator for LIfeboat Addiction Recovery Services — agrees.

“Access to naloxone is extremely important,” DeMott said. “This is recognition this isn’t going away, we can’t arrest our way out of it.”

But while both are on board with the new changes, they said the biggest hurdle is something else.

“To shift the public mentality around addiction,” DeMott said. “Removing some of the stigma to help make treatment and resources more accessible.”

“These kids don’t need the stigma of feeling like a dirt bag, they know they’re not doing well,” Pavona said. “It’s up to us to wear the armor for them a little while until they’re able to wear it themselves.”

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