Last week, we recognized the invaluable contributions of our wonderful friend, Dr. Tom McLellan, and our partners at the Consumer Healthcare Products Association (CHPA). Dr. McLellan deserves a large share of credit for spurring the transformation of our organization into a resource for parents, while CHPA has taken an active role in supporting our programs to reduce medicine abuse. Held in Washington, DC, the event was hosted at the beautiful home of Juleanna Glover.
Pat Russo, our Chairman, opened the evening telling those gathered why she’s so committed to our mission and the perspective that she brings as a former Fortune 500 CEO and prominent board executive. For Pat, youth alcohol and drug use and addiction are not only preventable and treatable health issues that impact American families, they are also key to our nation’s future and our ability to remain relevant and competitive globally. She also thanked CHPA for being one of the strongest supporters of the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids since 1998. CHPA has supported numerous education programs developed by the organization including Time To Talk for parents and DXM Stories for teens looking for information about cough medicine abuse.
I had the honor of presenting our Visionary Award to Dr. McLellan for his groundbreaking work on The Parents Resource Center, the precursor to our wide range of science-based tools for parents across the continuum of prevention, intervention, treatment and recovery support found at www.drugfree.org. Tom could not have been more kind or generous in his acceptance remarks saying that we’re having a profound and lasting impact on changing lives and saving lives. He also rededicated his personal support via his new research center, the Penn Center on Substance Abuse Solutions at the University of Pennsylvania.
Sean Clarkin, our Director of Strategy and Program Management, introduced author, journalist and parent David Sheff who did a phenomenal job relating his journey as a father through his son Nic’s addiction. David talked about one name that came up time and time again in that journey as the source of the best science, the expert perspective that mattered, and the author of the studies that other experts cited. A name without a face who had quietly over years become David’s personal hero. You guessed it, Tom McLellan. That night, David got to meet his hero.
Speaking to Tom and the other guests assembled, David beautifully described the frustrations and desperation that so many parents in his situation face. He has a gift for words and it is clear why he is a New York Times bestselling author. Here is an excerpt.
“Most people think that they and their families are immune to drug problems – they happen to others, not to them — but addiction is a tragedy that can befall any of us. People – good people, loving people – transform into ones who are unrecognizable. I’ve spent the last few years learning everything I could about drug use, addiction and related mental illnesses. My initial motivation was selfish: to save the life of my son, who as a teenager became addicted to methamphetamine, heroin and other drugs.
A decade later, I still look back and ask, “How did it start? How does it start for any of our children?” Over hellish years I tried everything I could do to help him. When this hit our family I had no idea where to begin. I tried to consult specialists, but reliable ones are difficult to identify and when you find them they may offer contradictory advice. When I was desperate for help, I spent hours on the phone and online. There was no online destination like the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids, but now there is. the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids is a godsend. It has the potential to change the experiences of people like me. Nothing can make facing addiction – or any serious illness – easy but here’s help for desperate people who are in crisis and need guidance to navigate what can seem like a daunting system.
From when I began researching this field, I heard one name come up again and again as a leader in this field, doing some of the most important work in this field–work to help people not with best guesses of what might work but evidence-based treatments, proven in clinical trials. He’s devoted his life to treatment as well as educating the public and policy makers, changing the way we look at drugs – understanding addiction as a serious illness, not a moral failing of the weak-willed and narcissistic. It’s a privilege to finally meet Tom McLellan who’s a great hero of mine.
And when it comes to resources that effectively prevent drug use and support people—kids, parents, families, teachers and others navigating a minefield — desperate to prevent their children from using – it’s from the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids. I haven’t found anyone, any organization, anywhere that’s doing more effective education and prevention and also offering support for teenagers and parents and others who desperately need it.
Their work is saving lives. As a parent, never mind a father of an addict, I can’t express how grateful I am.”
Thank you again to all of our supporters, friends and dedicated individuals who are committed to our cause and want to make a difference in the lives of parents like David Sheff.