Florida-based Horses Healing Hearts Urges Legislators to Include Recovery Help for Children in Addiction Legislation
Washington, D.C. – May 23, 2016 – Florida-based Horses Healing Hearts (HHH) founder Liz Olszewski and HHH participant Dylan Armus met with members of Congress last week to urge legislators to increase support for children of addicted parents, and to reintroduce student assistance programs to schools. They also told legislators about the one-of-a-kind HHH equine program for children of addiction.
Olszewski and Armus traveled to Washington, D.C. on May 18 at the invitation of NACoA President and HHH Advisory Board Member Sis Wenger, a national advocate for children of alcohol and drug-addicted parents, to support the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act, CARA. The bill is moving quickly through Congress to address the growing opioid/heroin epidemic.
CARA “establishes a comprehensive, coordinated, balanced strategy through enhanced grant programs that would expand prevention and education efforts while also promoting treatment and recovery.” The historic bi-partisan bill passed the Senate by a vote of 400-6 less than two weeks ago, and this week the House passed 18 separate bills addressing various aspects of the issues. The strong support from both parties is facilitating a fast track final bill now in Conference Committee.
However, this historic bill falls short in addressing the needs of the most vulnerable victims of addiction: the children of addicted parents. Both Wenger and Olszewski believe children’s programs are a critical part of the recovery process, and that legislation must address their needs.
During CARA Family Day at the Capital Olszewski and Armus shared their stories with legislators through testimony at the hearing of the Bi-partisan Task Force to Combat the Heroin Epidemic, co-chaired by Congressman Frank Guinta (R-NH) and Congresswoman Annie Kuster (D-NH), along with Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner (R-WI).
Fourteen-year-old Armus was the only child of addiction to testify at the event, and his honest and moving testimony in front of the Task Force won accolades from Congressman Ted Deutch (D-Fla).
The Congressman thanked Armus, saying, “I am so proud of my young constituent, Dylan Armus, who traveled from Boynton Beach to Washington to share the story of how his mother’s addiction impacted his life, and how Horses Healing Hearts of Wellington helped to mend his relationship with her. Thank you, Dylan, for sharing your powerful testimony.”
“We are extremely proud of Dylan for having the courage to share with a key Congressional Committee about his personal experience, giving a voice to the millions of children of addicted parents,” Olszewski said. “For too long we have simply reacted to the children when they get into trouble. It’s not enough. We desperately need a comprehensive strategy of prevention to get in FRONT of this epidemic. Until we do this, it will keep growing.”
As the child of alcoholic parents, and someone who has dedicated her life to helping children of addicts and alcoholics, Olszewski is optimistic about the attention Congress is giving to the problem. “The CARA bill is a monumental and historic step in the right direction. HHH is very thankful to the legislators who have worked tirelessly to get it this far. However, we urge legislators to add specific language to support the recovery of the children and families. This is a family disease.”
Senator Joseph Abruzzo agreed, commenting, “During the heartfelt testimony of 27 families who lost loved ones to addiction, the stories of mothers and fathers suffering heart and other serious chronic anxiety-related issues were prevalent during these difficult circumstances. Siblings shared of the emotional turmoil and guilt that they often felt, and do feel, through their inability to help their loved one in preventing an overdose. These families and the children of addiction, like so many others, are the very reason services must be made available to help them recover from addiction’s devastating impact that spawns far past the individual suffering. If we don’t render these services, we will continue to see the generational transmission of this terrible disease.”
HHH is the only program in the country using horses to help children of alcoholics and addicts. The West Palm Beach, Florida charity emphasizes prevention and breaking the familial cycle of addiction, while providing a safe place for children to explore their feelings and heal emotionally.