Families ACT! in Santa Barbara, A New PATH (Parents for Addiction Treatment & Healing) in San Diego and moms from around the country are sharing their stories of loss during the holidays to speak out for an end to the war on drugs, which has been so disastrous to our families. Many of the moms leading this campaign have been personally impacted by the war on drugs, including having family who suffer from addiction, have been repeatedly incarcerated, or have died from preventable drug overdoses.
It was six years ago that Ian Bezman disappeared on November 9th in Santa Barbara. His body was found three weeks later in a drainage ditch under Hayward’s on State Street. He was referred in a News Press article as winter’s first homeless victim of the year. He was instead a victim of Santa Barbara’s version of the “Revolving Door”. His mother, Suzanne Riordan, co-founder of Families ACT!, has vowed to create alternatives to this cycle for persons young and old who struggle with mental health and co-occurring substance use disorders. She is joined by mothers from all over the country working to redirect resources from punitive policies to prevention and treatment.
“My son’s only crime was self-medication. He felt tracked by probation and the D.A. who held the threat of prison over his head if he relapsed. This is no way to treat our most tender and sensitive young people! No wonder our jails and prisons are filled to the breaking point! No wonder the Supreme Court has ordered California not to send any more of these non-criminal “offenders” to state prison! America has spent at least $1 trillion on the drug war. It cost U.S. taxpayers at least $51 billion. Just imagine what we could do with but a fraction of that in terms of prevention and treatment. ” Suzanne Riordan
“I weep for the countless families who have been torn apart by discriminatory and destructive drug policies that lock up fathers and remove children from their mothers in the name of the war on drugs, which is really a war waged against families and communities.” Gretchen Burns Bergman
“I wait for those with substance use disorders to be served by our health care system rather than languishing in prison. Until that wait is over, there will always be an extra place setting at my holiday table for those who are locked up, thrown away or left out.”
“The empty place at the table is a powerful metaphor for the incredible void that permeates my life during the holidays and all year long because my son lost his life to drug prohibition violence.” Joy Strickland
The Moms United campaign mission is to “end the violence, mass incarceration and overdose deaths that are a result of current punitive and discriminatory drug policies. We are building a movement to stop the stigmatization and criminalization of people who use drugs or who are addicted to drugs. We are urgently calling for health-oriented strategies and widespread drug policy reform in order to stop the irresponsible waste of dollars and resources, and the devastating loss of lives and liberty.”
Leaders of the Moms United campaign from around the country include:
Gretchen Burns Bergman (San Diego, CA), the mother of two sons who have struggled with heroin addiction and repeated incarceration; Julia Negron (Los Angeles, CA), a mother of a son whose son served several prison terms for drug possession; Denise Cullen (Palm Desert, CA), a social worker specializing in grief counseling, whose son died from an overdose two years ago, Joyce Rivera (New York, NY) who founded St. Ann’s Corner of Harm Reduction in the Bronx and is the sister of an injection drug user who died of HIV/AIDS, Kathie Kane-Willis (Chicago, Illinois), Director Illinois Consortium on Drug Policy Roosevelt University, and Joy Strickland (Dallas, Texas), who lost her son to teen violence.
Moms United to End the War on Drugs is a project of San Diego-based A New PATH (Parents for Addiction Treatment and Healing), a 12-year old nonprofit organization that works to reduce the stigma associated with addictive illness through education and compassionate support, and to advocate for therapeutic rather than punitive drug policies.