Pubdate: Wed, 01 Feb 2012
Source: Indiana Daily Student (IN Edu)
Copyright: 2012 Indiana Daily Student
Author: Jaclyn Lansbery


Three years ago, Bloomington resident Sharon Blair lost her oldest 
child, 29-year-old Jennifer Reynolds, to what most people might not 
call a disease: drug addiction.

But Blair, 54, believes an illness is what caused her daughter's 
accidental overdose on Jan. 15, 2009.

"The brain is malfunctioning. It's not processing," she said. "So it 
is a disease. That is something no one wants to talk about."

However, Blair intends to get the attention of lawmakers in Indiana 
and Florida, where Blair and her family lived when her daughter died.

Blair drafted the Jennifer Act in 2002 when her daughter was still 
deeply addicted to drugs. She was addicted to opium pills, heroin, 
marijuana and alcohol.

The act would allow families to commit substance-addicted people to 
state-funded treatment centers. During Jennifer's fluctuating 
addiction, Blair sent her daughter to treatment centers using the 
Marchman Act, a Florida law that allows families to commit a 
substance-addicted person who has met certain criteria to qualify for 
state-funded treatment.

The year Jennifer died, Blair sent the bill to county representatives 
in Florida.

Blair and her family were able to pay the fees for the petition in 
each county, which could sometimes cost $400. She saw this as 
discrimination against people who can't afford the fees.

The Jennifer Act in Florida would also put the petition fees at a 
flat, affordable rate.

When Blair moved to back to her hometown of Bloomington in 2010, she 
discovered Indiana law defines substance addictions as different from 
mental illness.

The same year, State Sen. Vi Simpson, D-Bloomington, and then-state 
Sen. Sue Errington, D-Muncie, sponsored the bill.

It has been reintroduced by Simpson in the current legislative 
session as Concurrent Resolution 7.

Jill Matheny, the director of the Indiana Addictions Issues 
Coalition, said she believes the bill has a good chance of passing 
legislation and that it should receive more attention this summer.

"I would hope that this would enable more Hoosiers to access 
treatment and find long-term recovery," she said. "Too many people 
out there still believe that this is a willpower or moral issue. It's not."

Blair said Jennifer first began her drug use when she was 16, not 
long before she dropped out of high school. Although she earned her 
GED diploma, she sank deeper into the addiction so that Blair had to 
constantly intervene.

"You balance between tough love, codependent, enabling boundaries, 
and the boundaries just keep moving and coming in and out, and the 
goal is to reach treatment but the walls just keep moving in and 
out," she said. "It's the process of traveling with someone who is 
addicted to drugs."

Nathan Blair, 25, said his sister's death brought his family closer.

"I think it's a tragedy that made us realize how important it is to 
have family," he said.

Nathan said he has helped encapsulate the act, mainly in Florida, by 
helping with the website and sending out ads in Clearwater, Fla.

One of the messages of the Jennifer Act is that no one grows up 
believing they will become drug addicts and that it isn't a conscious decision.

"It just happens through a series of bad events in your life, one 
after the other, and slowly it consumes you, and at that point, it's 
almost like you don't have the capacity to make the decision for 
yourself," Nathan said.

Blair said one of the components she won't compromise on is making 
faith-based treatments an option for those involuntarily committed.

"I know that I'm probably never going to get every single thing of 
the Jennifer Act I asked for, but if I get some of it, I feel like 
that's progress," she said. "I think that's positive and that we're 
moving in the right direction and that it's beneficial for families 
to know that they have health options out there."
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