For State Rep. Brittany Pettersen, Legislation Around Addiction Is Personal

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<p>John Daley/CPR News</p>
<p>The dome of the Colorado Capitol, January 2017.</p>

Democrat State Rep. Brittany Pettersen knows first-hand the scourge of addiction.

Her mother has been hooked on a laundry list of substances since Pettersen was a little girl.

“She has gone from addictions with pills and prescription drugs to methadone to alcohol, back to pills…” Pettersen said.

Photo: State Rep. Brittany Pettersen
House District 28 Representative Brittany Pettersen, Jefferson County.

When doctors stopped prescribing her opioid painkillers, Pettersen’s mother started using heroin.

“The problem here is when you cut addicts off, they are going to find another way to meet their needs,” Pettersen said. “And so my mom, and so many Coloradans, have turned to doing heroin.”

First elected to her House District 28 seat in 2012, Pettersen said the state lacks the resources necessary to combat drug addiction. So she’s taking aim at the entities she said are in part responsible for starting the epidemic: opioid manufacturers.

“We cannot financially deal with this alone. And they were part of creating this situation that we’re in. And they do need to be a part of providing funds to help with actual recovery for people.”

Pettersen wants to put forward a bill that would require drug makers to use some of their profits to help pay for treatment programs in Colorado. She’s still working out the details of the legislation, which she expects to introduce at the Capitol soon. Petterson is currently a co-sponsor of SB17-193, a bill that makes an appropriation for an addiction research center at the University of Colorado health sciences center.

Three out of four new heroin users abused prescription pain pills prior to trying heroin. And opioid-involved overdose deaths across the country have quadrupled since 1999.

Priscilla VanderVeer, a spokeswoman for Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, said she couldn’t comment on legislation that has yet to be introduced. But she cited several PhRMA policy recommendations aimed at reducing prescription drug misuse and abuse. They include improving the effectiveness of the Prescription Drug Monitoring Program, a prescription drug tracking database, and improving education and training related to prescription drug abuse.