Home Commentary Open Letter to U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Regarding Health Care
Open Letter to U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions  Regarding Health Care

Open Letter to U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Regarding Health Care


U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions
United States Senate
Washington, D.C. 20510
Via Fax

June 13, 2017

Dear Senators,

I am writing to share my story of addiction and recovery with the Senate Health Committee as you work to improve health care. I’m sure my experience with addiction will help the Senate understand the critical need to mandate insurers to provide mental health and substance abuse benefits and the importance of federal funding for Medicaid expansion.

Drug addiction is at record levels across the country. The Surgeon General estimates the annual economic impact from drug and alcohol abuse at over $400 billion. Costly collateral damage from drug addiction includes crack-addicted babies and a foster care system overcrowded with abused and neglected children. My untreated crack habit cost the US taxpayers millions of dollars.

For 19 years I was so severely addicted to crack cocaine and alcohol that I was arrested 83 times with 66 convictions. I lost custody of four of my children, three went into foster care. When I wasn’t in jail or prison, I lived under a bridge. Like many other addicts, I prostituted myself to support my crack habit. I’ve been spit on, raped and assaulted.

I found out I was pregnant with my fifth child during my 83rd arrest. Determined to keep this child out of the foster care system, I asked the judge to give me a longer sentence so I would be eligible for a treatment program. My family, friends and a litany of “experts” thought I was a lost cause, but the judge took a chance and ordered me into a treatment program.

That treatment paid off. Today, I am a mother, wife, and productive citizen. The only time I visit prisons is to speak to inmates about my journey and help them reenter society successfully. I’m no longer homeless or in public housing; I became a homeowner. I’m no longer a burden on other taxpayers; I work and pay taxes. I now train public health providers in the courts, prisons and child protection agencies who once served me.”

Most importantly, unlike her mother, my daughter Orlandra was never a ward of the state. She never had to endure the pain and trauma of being snatched from her untreated alcoholic mother by Child Protective Services like me and my six siblings; or like my children experienced with me. My treatment not only healed my trauma, it taught me to be a loving, nurturing parent so I could break our family’s vicious cycle of addiction.
There are countless addiction recovery stories like mine. I encourage them to share their stories with legislators as well to remind you that our struggle matters, and our votes matter. Our triumphs over addiction demonstrate that treatment saves lives, communities, and money.

Limiting access to treatment programs will exacerbate the addiction epidemic and increase costs to taxpayers. I urge our Senate and Congressional leaders to seriously consider the financial savings to taxpayers if coverage for mental health, trauma care and substance abuse treatment is preserved.
President Obama delivered on his promise to improve access to affordable health care for all. If the current plan is repealed, we expect President Trump to make good on his campaign pledge to replace it with a better plan that covers more people and costs less money. We don’t care if it’s called the Affordable Care Act, American Health Care Act, or just an Act, America needs the Senate to create health care policies that cover mental health and substance abuse treatment and expand Medicaid.

To God Be The Glory,
Tonier Cain
Annapolis, Maryland