'I had to have them': MS woman works to tackle opioid abuse

'I had to have them': MS woman works to tackle opioid abuse

JACKSON, MS (WLOX) - President Donald Trump has declared opioid abuse a national public health emergency. Its effects are far-reaching, and no one is immune.

Angela Mallette is a doting mother of a 2-year-old little girl named Stella. But before Stella was born, Mallette's life was drastically different.

She was addicted to oxycodone.

"I was addicted and I had to have them," said Mallette.

She was prescribed the pills after miscarrying at six months during her first pregnancy.

"I was prescribed a 30-day supply of oxycodone, three times a day," she said. "So, that was 90 pills."

Thirty days is all it took for Mallette to crave the drugs. The days of her addiction were dark and led her down a path of destruction.

"The addiction just got worse. I started injecting painkillers, and I woke up one day and I was shooting up in a trailer with no power on," she said.

Like some addicts, Mallette had her moment of awakening before it was too late.

"I literally woke up in jail the next day after I had gotten arrested and said thank God. Thank God I don't have to fight this anymore," she noted.

Now in recovery, Mallette has been named the outreach coordinator for Mississippi's targeted opioid project. She works closely with Gov. Phil Bryant to raise awareness about opioid abuse.

"People are dying every day," said Mallette. "People are dying all over Mississippi, but in particular, on the Coast."

While Mallette is combating the crisis through awareness, Harrison County Sheriff's Department Lt. Matt Haley has a boots-on-the-ground approach.

"Mostly what we're seeing is hydrocodone, oxycodone, oxycontin, and fentanyl," said Haley of the drugs that at one point, were rare. "Seems to be on the rise."

What officials say is unique about the epidemic is that it doesn't pick favorites.

"We could do a search warrant for these type of drugs in a middle-class neighborhood one day, and three days later do a search warrant in an upper-class neighborhood," said Haley.

In 2015, opioids killed more than 23,000 people in the U.S. The Mississippi attorney general's office reports that in 2016, Mississippi was a leading prescriber of opioid painkillers; with the equivalent of approximately 70 opioid pills for every man, woman, and child.

Children are often caught in the crosshairs of addiction.

"A lot of these drug houses we go to, there seems to always be some type of kid involved," said Haley. "We get DHS every chance we get."

As Hancock County CASA Executive Director, Cynthia Chauvin sees the impact of opioid abuse on South Mississippi youth. More than 75 percent of children who come into the system do so as a result of neglect due to dependency due to drugs.

Seeing children separated from their families because of this addiction is frustrating and heartbreaking. But, that's why it has to be addressed," said Chauvin.

It's also why Mallette says she can't be quiet about her personal journey to recovery. She hopes people listen and join in the fight to end the cycle.

"I don't personally know anyone who this disease hasn't touched, myself included," said Mallette.

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