MEDFORD, Ore. — The opioid crisis has reached all corners of the country including right here in southern Oregon. Yet, it's still often difficult to put a face to the epidemic.
The horrors are all too real for Mike Pelfrey and his family in Grants Pass.
Pelfrey lost his sister to an opioid overdose. She had been a nurse anesthetist and was caught using some of the drugs intended for her patients. At one point she even went to re-hab to save her job but went right back to abusing pain killers shortly after she completed the program.
One day, Pelfrey got the call that his sister had overdosed and died.
Representative Greg Walden is the chairman of the energy and commerce committee. The committee has brought 57 pieces of opiod related legislation to the House floor over the past two weeks. Walden explained the problems the legislation tries to address.
"How do you get access to treatment sooner for people who are addicted?" says Walden. "How do you get better practices in place for prescribing? How do you make sure the treatment people get is actually effective? How do you stop the illegal fentanyls coming into the country through greater inspection processes at our postal facilities?"
Pelfrey's son Zach is addicted to opioids. Pelfrey explained that it all started after a sports injury. At the time, Zach was in college on a baseball scholarship. Pelfrey says the doctor prescribed Zach painkillers and by the time they were finished, Zach was already addicted. So he moved onto options he could buy on the street. Pelfrey details how it all went downhill from there.
"We've had police come to our house because of choices our son made," remembers Pelfrey. "He spent lots of time in jail because of decisions that he made. All of this, I believe, because of the drug use.
However, Pelfrey says it hasn't changed the core of his son.
"Zach's personality is so awesome," says Pelfrey with tears in his eyes. "He's such a wonderful young man. Unfortunately, he has an issue. He has a problem. And that is a terrible addiction."
Walden acknowledges just how common Zach's story is around the country. He also admits it's going to take a multi-pronged approach to solve the problem - something the new legislation is trying to tackle.