Personal tragedy combined with legal knowledge can make for a powerful combination when educating the public about some of society’s more troubling ills. Such is the case with bringing to light a growing national problem with drug addiction, specifically heroin and other opioids.
WMU-Cooley Professor Lauren Rousseau knows this well. Recently she spearheaded a program titled, “Silence Equals Death: How the Heroin Epidemic is Driving Change in Perception, Treatment, and the Law,” with presentations held at both the Lansing and Auburn Hills campuses. It’s an interest founded in personal experience – a young man for whom Rousseau served as a guardian while he was in high school died at age 19 after a battle with addiction to heroin and other drugs.
Rousseau saw a need to highlight the growing crisis of heroin use among young people and explore ways to improve their odds of survival.
“We have an epidemic with respect to heroin and opioids in this nation,” said Rousseau. “We need to take action to change that. We need to demand that lawmakers recognize addiction as a disease, and ensure that treatment is available.”
The program was set up in a panel format, with various experts weighing in on the practical factors affecting drug addiction issues. Panelists discussed what those who work with people addicted to drugs should know concerning addiction and the best treatment options; what legislation has been passed to assist families affected by drug abuse, in particular, prescription drug misuse; and what tools first responders should have to save the lives of those who have overdosed on heroin and other drugs.
The programs generated a great deal of interest and interaction from attendees as the subject hit home for many.
“Many participants stayed after the programs to talk with me, the panelists, and each other,” Rousseau said. “People told me that they were extremely grateful to WMU-Cooley for organizing the event. Some said they struggled at certain points to hold back tears due to their own experiences with addiction. I did not expect this reaction, and it made me realize how hungry people are for the information we provided.”
Watch the entire program