As Opioid Epidemic Rages On, Children Are Hidden Casualty

Before COVID-19, Americans were fighting another public health crisis: opioid abuse and addiction. Often pushed off the front pages by the pandemic, the opioid crisis didn’t go away. Millions of Americans continue to struggle with the ripple effect on their families, friends and communities. But the profound challenges facing one very important group are often hidden from view: the children caught in the middle. With signs that the stress associated with the COVID pandemic may be fueling a new surge in drug use, it’s time for a closer look at this growing national problem.

BY THE NUMBERS

50%

Nearly half of all U.S. mothers were prescribed opioid painkillers over the past decade following their birth experience.

VIDEO BOOKMARK

Addicted Parents, Absent Caregivers, Lost Kids

Thousands of children are in foster care or living with other family after parents lose their battle with opioids.

THE DOCKET

TALKING TO TEENS ABOUT OPIOIDS

This guide can help your protect teens from opioid abuse now and as they transition into adulthood.

Speeding, Careless Driving Up as Traffic Levels Come Down

Bikers, Walkers Must Be More Vigilant

Traffic levels right now are the lowest in decades with millions of Americans staying close to home during the COVID-19 pandemic. Meanwhile, more people are walking and biking to get out of the house and take advantage of less congestion. All good, except that some drivers see empty roads and highways as an invitation to speed or drive distracted.

Here are just a few concerning examples from around the nation. The California Highway Patrol has issued almost double the number of tickets compared with last year for driving over 100 mph. In Nevada and Rhode Island, state officials note pedestrian fatalities are rising. Utah has seen a 30% to 50% drop in highway traffic and a slight decrease in the number of collisions, but troopers are seeing higher speeds and more fatal accidents.

The lesson for us all – walkers, bikers and drivers – is not to let down our guard because roads and highways seem less crowded. Keep these basic walking/driving safety tips in mind at all times, but especially now:

Tips for Drivers

  • Don’t block any crosswalks when stopped at a red light or waiting to make a turn.
  • Watch your speed – less traffic doesn’t make it any less dangerous to drive recklessly.
  • Take extra care to look out for pedestrians or cyclists, especially in residential areas.
  • Watch for unexpected street closures. Many cities are selectively closing roads to create more space for walkers and bikers.
  • When passing a bicyclist, proceed in the same direction slowly. And leave three feet between your car and the cyclist.
  • Watch for bike riders turning in front of you without looking or signaling. Young bicyclists especially have a tendency to do this.
  • Check side mirrors before opening your door when parked.

 

Enjoying more family bike rides? Make sure helmets are properly fitted.

Kids and Bike Helmets

Tips for Pedestrians

 and Cyclists
  • Whenever possible, walk on the sidewalk. If no sidewalk is available, walk facing traffic.
  • Follow the rules of the road, obeying all traffic signs and signals.
  • Cross streets at crosswalks. If no crosswalk is available and your view is blocked, move to a place where you can see oncoming traffic.
  • Stay alert – avoid cell phone use, especially when crossing the street. Keep your eyes out for cars at all times.
  • As mentioned above, several cities are closing streets to vehicle traffic or adding temporary bike lanes. Check your city website for more information.
  • If you are riding a bike, you should be wearing a helmet. Download this guide from the National Safety Council to select and fit the right helmet for yourself and your kids.
  • And, of course, keep your social distance! Even outside, the CDC recommends we stay six feet away from others. It’s up to all of us to share the trails, share the road and share the good weather safely.

Justice Served: Celebrating People Who Make a Difference

Uncovering the Dangers of Baby Powder

Baby PowderInternal memos reveal that Johnson & Johnson knew of asbestos risk.

Darlene Coker, mother of two and manager of a massage school, was diagnosed in 1999 with mesothelioma. This deadly lung cancer is normally found in industrial workers exposed to asbestos fibers while on the job. Darlene wanted to know how she could have contracted this terminal disease.

The answer: the Johnson & Johnson baby powder she used on her daughters and sprinkled on herself all her life, according to a lawsuit Darlene filed against the health care giant. Darlene’s lawyers knew that talc, the key ingredient mined from the earth for baby powder, often occurs with asbestos.

Darlene was forced to drop her lawsuit after Johnson & Johnson successfully held back its own test results on the presence of asbestos in its talc supplies. She died at the age of 63, but Darlene started the clock of justice ticking. Twenty years later, Johnson & Johnson was forced to release years of internal memos that revealed the company had been hiding evidence of asbestos in their products since 1957. Today, thousands of people are holding Johnson & Johnson and its talc-based products accountable for causing their cancer.

Spray herbicideHundreds claim using the herbicide Roundup caused their cancer.

 

Exposing a Deadly Carcinogen in Roundup

Dewayne Anthony Lee Johnson was 42 when he was diagnosed with terminal non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Years spent as a school groundskeeper often exposed him to Roundup, the top-selling pesticide in the world. As his cancer progressed, Johnson filed a lawsuit against Monsanto, the maker of Roundup,  alleging the company knew that a key ingredient called glyphosate was carcinogenic. In 2015, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) announced that glyphosate, a common pesticide, was “probably carcinogenic to humans.” Yet, Monsanto continued to use glyphosate in its products.

A jury found that Monsanto not only failed to warn consumers of the dangers of their pesticides, the company also actively discussed plans to discredit the IARC finding. The jury awarded Johnson a record $289 million verdict, which a judge later reduced to $78 million. Nevertheless, the doors were opened to hundreds of other people as they seek to hold Monsanto accountable for causing their cancer.

GymnasticsEmployers are under scrutiny in gymnastics sexual abuse scandal.

 

Unmasking Sexual Abuse and Neglect in USA Gymnastics

As a young girl, Rachael Denhollander loved gymnastics. To maintain her competitive edge, she scheduled physical therapy with Larry Nassar, a prominent physician for the women’s national team. During these sessions – sometimes even when her mother was in the room – Nassar sexually assaulted Rachael. For the next 16 years, she kept her own “case file” of diary entries, medical records from her visits to Nassar, notes from her therapist and research from pelvic-rehabilitation practitioners about what should have happened in therapy.

In 2016, Denhollander went public with her story after reading about an investigation in the Indianapolis Star. Dozens of other victims rallied with Denhollander to hold Larry Nassar accountable. He was eventually sentenced to hundreds of years in prison after being found guilty of multiple counts of sexual abuse and federal child pornography. Following Nassar’s conviction, more than 150 federal and state lawsuits were filed against Michigan State University, the U.S. Olympic Committee, USA Gymnastics and the Twistars Gymnastics Club for negligence in monitoring Nassar’s behavior.

Denhollander, now a lawyer herself, was the last of 130 victims to testify during Nassar’s trial. After her testimony, Judge Rosemarie Aquilina said, “You started a tidal wave. You made all of this happen. You made all of these voices matter. Your sister survivors and I thank you. You are the bravest person I have ever had in my courtroom.”

Elizabeth HolmesElizabeth Holmes, founder of Theranos, lied about her blood-testing device.

 

Reporting Massive Fraud and Bogus Medical Results

Elizabeth Holmes, founder of health technology corporation Theranos, claimed in 2004 to have developed a revolutionary device called the Theranos Edison that would perform multiple blood tests – from cholesterol to cancer – all from a painless finger-prick. Theranos raised more than $700 million in investments and partnered with many healthcare companies, including Walgreens.

The problem? The Edison blood-testing machine didn’t work. But for many years, Elizabeth Holmes and Theranos continued to lie and cover up the truth about the Edison. Finally, a whistle-blowing employee named Tyler Schultz, grandson of one of Theranos’ board of directors, alerted authorities to the fraud. In his email to New York State Department of Health regulators, Schultz outlined questionable lab practices and said he believed test results were being switched. Soon after, healthcare reporter John Carreyrou published a bombshell investigation of Theranos, claiming that the Edison blood tests were actually done by other machines.

Carreyrou’s article also highlighted the dangers of the bogus tests as thousands of patients were diagnosed with medical problems they didn’t actually have. After years of investigations, Elizabeth Holmes and her business partner, Ramesh Balwani, were indicted on wire fraud charges. Following these revelations, several ex-Theranos patients filed a federal class-action lawsuit against Theranos and Walgreens, alleging that incorrect tests forced unnecessary and dangerous medical treatments.