May 9, 2000
Thank you Mr. Chairman and other members of the Caucus for holding this important hearing on the consequences of heroin use. I have a few, brief remarks, and ask that my testimony be submitted into the record.
My first memory as a child is of watching my father shoot up heroin. I must have been about 3 years old. My second memory is waiting outside the door while my mom was with a john. Even at four and five years old I was aware of the drugs my parents used. I was aware of what if did to them. I was aware of what they did to me.
My father is still a heroin addict, and my mother is a recovering heroin addict.
I have a little sister who is now 21 years old. We have spent our lives affected on every side by the devastation of drug abuse, particularly heroin. My sister was born addicted and a child in between us was lost because of heroin use. While living with our parents, we were undernourished, improperly clothed, and homeless. We were babysat by a drug dealer named Margie and left in cars alone for hours while our mother prostituted herself to pay for drugs.
One day we were discovered in a parked car by police officers. We had been there for half the day. We were taken away and placed in a foster care facility until we could be released to our maternal grandparents. We thankfully left the uncertainty and fear of living in motels and cars for a real home.
My parents are not the sole drug addicts in our family: every uncle, every aunt, my grandfather, half of my cousins and even my little sister have struggled with drug abuse. There has been little chance of escape for us. Generations of drug and alcohol abuse make up my family tree.
My favorite uncle, my Uncle Gordy, was like a father to me in the absence of my own. I adored him with every ounce of my 8 year old heart. He started using heroin and even began manufacturing methamphetamines. As you well know, this is not a responsible or humane industry. He had a run-in with a client and was killed. He was given a hot shot in a motel room. A jogger found him wrapped in carpet and lying in a ditch two months later. My Uncle Gordy had been a successful business man – had owned his own business. He was adored. His son was only five years old. Yet my uncle died cruelly. His heroin addiction was to blame.
Another of my uncles was shot while burglarizing a home for money to pay for heroin. The bullet paralyzed him from the waist down. Regardless, he continued to use heroin. He overdosed and died – still addicted, still paralyzed, but still my uncle.
I saw my father only a few months ago. I spent an hour with him. All he wanted from me was $10 dollars to get a fix. $10. Not a minute with his daughter. Not a hug or a kiss or a conversation. He wanted that $10 dollars. One month ago my father called and asked for help. He wanted to enter a treatment program. I tried very hard to find a program for him, but nothing was available. Our country’s treatment providers are overburdened and unable to provide the services that so many desperately need. Unfortunately, my father’s search for treatment came too late. 25 years of heroin addiction has taken its toll. He is in the hospital and has been told by doctors that he has less than a year to live. He is 48 years old.
My mother has been in recovery for 14 years. She was diagnosed with Hepatitis C a few years ago, but is taking good care of her health.
Drug Endangered Children
Drug abuse is not a victimless crime. There are millions of children like me in this country. Millions. They suffer from abuse and neglect because of their parents drug addictions.
Over the past 10 years, fueled by alcohol and illegal drugs, the number of abused and neglected children has more than doubled-- from 1.4 million in 1986 to more than 3 million in 1997 1. And 2.4 million children in this country have a parent in prison for a drug-related offense. 2.4 million children. And drug use causes or exacerbates most cases of child neglect and abuse. The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University (CASA) estimates that substance abuse and addiction is the chief culprit in at least 70 percent of all child welfare spending.
Key Findings Reveal:
Over the past 10 years, fueled by alcohol and illegal drugs, the number of abused and neglected children has more than doubled-- from 1.4 million in 1986 to more than 3 million in 1997, a rise more than eight times greater than the increase in the children's population (114.2 percent compared to 13.9 percent)2.
Substance abuse causes or exacerbates 7 out of 10 cases of child abuse or neglect 3.
Children whose parents abuse drugs and alcohol are almost 3 times likelier to be abused and more than 4 times likelier to be neglected than children of parents who are not substance abusers 4.
Children exposed prenatally to illicit drugs are 2 to 3 times likelier to be abused or neglected.
We, the children of drug addicted parents, need your help. We need your support and commitment to our safety.
Invest in Prevention
Prevention should be our top priority. My life changed when I became a part of a community-based organization called Drug Use Is Life Abuse in southern California. Knowing that I had something positive to contribute, something positive to give back, was so important to me. This community coalition provided support, mentorship and care at the time I needed it most. Children of addicts are at great risk of becoming addicts themselves. Prevention is the most effective way of stopping the cycle of substance abuse.
Make Treatment Available for Those Who Need It
As I have recently learned in trying to find treatment for my father, there is little available. Treatment is effective. It is necessary. There is not enough available for those who need it. Treatment gives families the opportunity to reunite, and a new chance at life. I ask you to provide
8.3 million children live with at least on parent who is either alcoholic or in need of treatment. So much good can come from providing support for those like me. I ask you to provide support and care for abused and neglected children and increase the investment and advance policies on behalf of drug endangered children.
One of the most dangerous aspects of today’s heroin epidemic is its myth of safety. My peers falsely believe that smoking heroin is safer that shooting up. They are mistaken. I strongly believe that attention should be focused on this issue to make young people aware of the consequences of heroin use.
Mr. Chairman, I thank you for your leadership on this issue. I look forward to any questions you or other Members of the Caucus may have.