Father who lost daughter to heroin addiction pleads for help
It was the ultimate hell for single dad Scott Meyers.
His teen daughter, Rachel, had progressed from smoking pot to doing every drug imaginable, ultimately spiraling into an inescapable web of heroin addiction.
The Spokane father of three did all he could to help.
“I was trying to save her life,” he said. “She would [overdose], I would take her to the hospital. I’d beg for help, [they’d say] no, there’s nothing we can do.”
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Meyers even tried, repeatedly, to have her arrested, thinking jail time could help her. He was most distraught to learn he couldn’t force the teen into drug treatment, even though she’s a minor.
State law allows kids over 13 to walk out regardless of their parents’ wishes. Rachel left treatment several times, never completing a program.
“You’re asking somebody that’s 13 or 14-years-old to make a decision about their health and well-being, which obviously they’re not mature to make,” he said.
Despite all his efforts to help, Rachel overdosed and died on her grandmother’s floor last March, just weeks before her 19th birthday.
Her father remains devastated nearly a year later.
“I would hate to see anybody have to suffer through what I did, as a parent as well as a child,” he said. “I mean it’s painful for the child going through it as well.”
So Meyers has devoted all his time since Rachel’s death to changing the law. He’s the driving force behind Rachel’s Law, which would allow parents to order their minor children held in treatment without their consent for up to two weeks.
“You know, if your child goes in with a burst appendix and the doctor says, hey we need to take your appendix out and the child is 15 and says I don’t want to, I don’t like needles, I don’t want the surgery, you, as a parent, can say, tough, (it’s) coming out. It’s the parents’ decision,” Meyers said.
Rep. Matt Shea (R-Spokane) heard Meyers’ story and immediately signed on to sponsor Rachel’s Law.
“I’ve known people, we probably all have, that have suffered from drug addiction. So this is near and dear to my heart, especially with minors, because if you catch it early enough you can, I think, make a big difference,” Shea said.
But Democratic leaders in the house wouldn’t even give the bill a hearing this session, and Shea has been unable to get any co-sponsors, although he does say there are plenty of people who are willing to sign on if it can break through the political morass.
“It is insane,” Shea said. “And unfortunately, it was intentionally not given a hearing this year, which to me was very upsetting. And we’re going to look for ways that we can get this amended on a bill, perhaps in the Senate.”
Another bill just passed by the House would have a similar effect, but with far more complications and cost.
Representative Eileen Cody (D-West Seattle) is the lead sponsor of Ricky’s Law – a measure aimed at integrating both mental health and drug laws to make it easier to involuntarily commit people for treatment, whether minors or adults.
“I don’t think that there’s really any disagreement about the policy direction,” Cody said. “It’s the fact that since we don’t have any [free or low-income] chemical dependency beds available, we actually believe that we probably need between six and eight facilities that would have 16 beds in them.”
That would cost upwards of $20 million or more by Cody’s estimates – money Republicans say just doesn’t exist. The Senate already defeated the measure once in the last session and it will likely die again this session as well.
“Right now, with the focus on education, it’s hard to get people to think about spending money in other places,” Cody said.
Shea argues, though, Rachel’s Law wouldn’t cost a cent. He says any cost would be borne by treatment facilities themselves for security measures like locked doors and windows. He says the competing measure is far too complicated.
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“The problem is with Ricky’s Law, you have to go through an evaluation, and there’s a bunch of court intervening,” he said. “And very candidly, in these situations there isn’t the time to do this. You need to get them into treatment, you need to get them in now … the parents are watching this and feeling this helplessness.”
In the meantime, Shea and Meyers vow to keep fighting.
Despite his heartbreak, Meyers says he intends to make it a national cause, helping parents in other states dealing with the same nightmare.
“They’re (opponents of Rachel’s Law) treating it like it’s nothing,” he said. “And it’s not. It’s a child’s life. I would hate to see any child lose their life just between now and next year because they didn’t want to allow people to hear this and give it a fair hearing.”