‘Forever Mace’ — Push to protect, educate teens about growing prescription drug abuse

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WATERVLIET, Mich. -- Drug overdoses now kill more teens in the United States than car crashes, according to the most recent data compiled from the Centers for Disease Control.

Further data shows more than 40 people in the United States die from an overdose of prescription pain killers each day.

For Lori Mizwicki, it's a statistic hitting far too close to home. Her 16-year-old son Mason was found dead Jan. 1, 2015 from an apparent prescription drug overdose. Mason, a stand-out student athlete and popular Watervliet junior was at a New Year's Eve 'skittles' party the night prior where he consumed a lethal dose of methadone.

“Losing a child, it seems like yesterday," Mizwicki said when asked about her son. "It goes without speaking, the loss of a child is forever, you lose half of yourself."

In wake of her son's death, Mizwicki said her family is determined to educate others about the dangers of drug abuse and the growing use among young people.

Rep. Al Pscholka, R-Stevensville

Rep. Al Pscholka, R-Stevensville

Earlier this month, Michigan Rep. Al Pscholka, R-Stevensville, introduced legislation that would protect individuals under 21 years of age from facing prescription drug-related legal charges if reporting a medical emergency.

The legislation would expand the state's current 'Good Samaritan' law, which protects minors in alcohol-related medical emergencies. It's a law that could've been the difference between life and death for Mason, his mother said.

“The kids not calling for Mason were definitely fearful of being in trouble," Mizwicki said. "If they’d made the call Mason would still be here… they were afraid."

Pscholka said expanding the law is a natural next step in addressing an issue affecting more young people than some might realize.

“Young people are taking prescription pills out of cabinets, maybe out of mom or grandpa, or grandma’s and throwing them in a bowl and consuming them," he said.

"I think it’s a topic folks don’t know a lot about and this is one way to bring a common sense solution to make sure if this happens that we can save a life.”

Pscholka said the legislation has bi-partisan support from 30 other lawmakers. It is expected to be taken up in committee this fall and full vote could come before the end of the year.

“What we’re trying to do here is prevent a tragedy, not just punish kids for breaking the law, that’s not really sufficient," he said. "Kids are smarter than we give them credit for, so if we keep the discussion honest, informative and really relevant I think then we can start to make a difference.”

Mason Mizwicki

Mason Mizwicki

Mizwicki said it's her turn to give back to the Watervliet community that's provided her family with support since Mason's death. Her hope is to educate other students and potentially save a life, she said.

Billboard are set to go up across Berrien County in time for the new school year reading 'Make a difference, know the act, save a life..." in reference to the proposed 'Good Samaritan' legislation expansion. Mizwicki said Watervliet High School has also implemented new policy that will provide counseling for students, rather than punish them, if they admit to having a drug problem.

“We’re not condoning the use of prescription drugs, that’s not what this bill is about, this bill is about these kids not being fearful of doing the right thing even when bad choices have been made," she said.

Two adults, including the parent of one of Mizwicki's friends, and several teens were eventually charged in connection to the teen's death.

In May, FOX 17 featured two West Michigan mothers who lost their children to drug overdoses.

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