Hot Topic #28: Foster Care and Opioids

Research published in July 2019 indicates that the number of children entering the foster care system has more than doubled since 2000.

Other reasons for removal, including neglect and abuse, declined.

Coincidentally, Sesame Street introduced a new Muppet around the same time. Karli is staying with her “for-now” family while her mom is away getting better. The Sesame Street initiative focuses on addiction as a whole, but makes the connection to foster care. Karli’s mom is getting help for alcohol addiction.


Resources

More Kids Are Getting Placed in Foster Care Because of Parents’ Drug Use, NPR, July 15, 2019

At This Camp, Children of Opioid Addicts Learn to Cope and Laugh, NPR, October 9, 2019


Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

Commentary #99: Thoughts on Multi-Level Marketing (MLMs)

Image Credit: Reddit

Disclaimer: This post contains strong language.

I’ve been wanting to write a post about multi-level marketing for a while. But, I’ve resisted. They are everywhere.

Full disclosure: I’ve been swept up in them for a while. Not selling for any company, but buying from them and “supporting” friends.

Throughout my life, I was buying from MLMs and not really realizing it. This means that I have hosted a party, attended a party, or bought product from a seller or consultant.

  • Mary Kay
  • Avon
  • Thirty-One
  • Stella and Dot
  • The Pampered Chef
  • Pure Romance
  • Arbonne
  • Scentsy
  • Origami Owl
  • Jamberry
  • LuLaRoe
  • Young Living
  • Sseko Designs
  • Rodan + Fields

Along the way, I have been approached by consultants to try samples, buy product, or actually sell Cutco, Advocare, Plexus, Norwex, Jamberry, Young Living, Amway, and Sseko Designs.

Over the last several months, I have been researching MLMs. It all started with John Oliver’s piece – Multilevel Marketing. Al and I watch his pieces on YouTube every week. It’s funny, entertaining, but also well-researched and frighteningly real.

I felt sick after watching his piece on MLMs. I realized, in the span of 30 minutes, how much money I had FUCKING WASTED on shitty products for many, many years. I’m also grateful I resisted “investing” in any of these companies, meaning that I never signed up to sell anything. Sure, I hosted a few parties, but I never joined anyone’s team.

And I’m so glad I didn’t.

You see, many of these MLMs are like cults. You’re swept up into the world of the company, its culture, and their products. And it’s really, really hard to leave.

I’m so glad I didn’t pay money upfront to “start a business.” Sure, I bought a lot of product – Makeup, skincare, bags, nail strips, essential oils, diffusers, jewelry, clothing, and more.

I recently added up how much money in extra product I had in my house from Young Living. This included unopened essential oils, laundry detergent, cleaning products, makeup, skincare, and foaming hand soap. It was roughly $2,000.

I had it all out on my kitchen counter. And I wanted to throw up. $2,000 is a mortgage payment and then some.

All because I believed that paying for overpriced, “chemical-free” essential oil products would help my family be healthier. For more than TWO YEARS. I was buying product every month, to the tune of about $100 per month, sometimes up to $400 per month. I went back to my purchasing history and cried. I wasted so much of my hard-earned money.

Al actually asked me to stop using the YL detergent months ago because it wasn’t cleaning his clothes as well. That was the first light bulb moment for me.

Then, I started closely researching the cost of my products with Rodan + Fields, and LuLaRoe (LLR). There was so much money in my bathroom and my closet. R+F was costing me about $300 every eight weeks. My skincare regimen in their fancy bottles, and their tiny tube of LashBoost. The LashBoost alone was almost $70. Per tube.

After I joined a Facebook group called Sounds like MLM but ok, my eyes were opened even wider. There were WAY MORE MLMs than I ever imagined. This group has a master list that is literally pages long.

That’s how I discovered Sseko Designs was a fucking MLM, for example. At first, I felt hurt, betrayed even. Hardly anyone had attended the party I had thrown on Facebook earlier this year, and now I know why.

And then there are the lawsuits. One of the biggest reasons I wanted to stop buying R+F several months ago was because of the class-action lawsuit I discovered specifically about LashBoost.

Here are some of the details, from the Keller Rohrback Law Offices: Rodan + Fields LashBoost Litigation.

Another glorious thing I discovered was The Dream podcast. If you haven’t listened to it yet, I highly recommend it. You can find it on Stitcher and Apple Podcasts. Jane Marie is a gem, and I can’t wait to see what happens with Season 2.

I could go on for days about MLMs. They are some of the most deceptive “companies” out there.

What bothers me the most, however, is how predatory they are. They advertise, falsely, that you can make so much money so quickly. Yet, in my interactions with consultants trying to get me to join their teams, all the language is shady and vague. Many pitches are copied and pasted from their upline, or the people above them.

In my research, I’ve discovered that roughly 95 percent of people in MLMs don’t make any money. Zero. Zilch. Nada.

Google “income disclosure statement,” and immediately many MLM names come up behind it – Monat, It Works, Arbonne, Young Living, Beachbody.

For example, Monat’s income disclosure statement reads “A typical Participant in the Plan earns between Cdn $22 and $1,188 annualized.”

That’s NOTHING. Fucking nothing. Only $1,188 PER YEAR? And that’s Cdn – Canadian. Currently, 1 Canadian dollar equals 0.76 United States dollar. Quick math – I think that translates to $902.88 USD per year.

That’s not even enough to pay my mortgage for ONE MONTH.

And that $1,188 CDN doesn’t include costs incurred by hosting parties, participating in events, and purchasing products. So, very likely, a Monat partner will never see that $902.88 in a year.

I’ve heard horror stories of people, mostly women, (but men are targeted for MLMs, too) have accumulated THOUSANDS of dollars in debt from purchasing inventory. My Facebook Marketplace is full of people desperate to unload their excess stock of Young Living oils, unsold LuLaRoe clothes and leggings, Scentsy products, and more.

Bottom line: MLMs are designed to prey on vulnerable people – Women and men. And many are stuck in it for years. It’s all very sad, and infuriating.

However, there is some good news. At the beginning of October, AdvoCare and its former CEO agreed to pay $150 million and be banned from multi-level marketing to resolve Federal Trade Commission (FTC) charges that the company operated an illegal pyramid scheme.

My hope is the FTC continues to investigate these predatory companies and take action. Like many industries, however, there are lobbyists and politics involved. I’ve posted a link to the Direct Selling Association (DSA) below in my resources list.

So, what can you do about MLMs?

  • Become aware. Many MLMs follow similar models, and use similar language to get people to buy in.
  • If you know someone involved in an MLM, don’t try to convince them to get out or stop. It’s like being in an abusive relationship – Only the person involved can decide when they want to leave. No one else, sadly, can change their mind.
  • Research. A simple Google search brings up articles from various sources, including The Washington Post, CNN Money, and AARP.
  • If you are approached by someone to invest or buy in, don’t be afraid to ask questions. Be your own advocate. Use words such as MLM, multi-level marketing, direct sales, or pyramid scheme.
  • At craft fairs, farmers markets, and other local events, support your neighbors and their small businesses. I guarantee you it will be a better experience for everyone. The money you spend will help them grow and invest in their products, whether it’s handmade soap, hand-crafted jewelry, doll clothes, or locally-sourced food.
  • If you help organize craft fairs, fundraisers, or farmers markets, work to limit the number of MLMs that are allowed to participate. Some places and organizations have gone so far to ban them entirely. I’m not telling you what to do, but just be mindful of the businesses you want to attract and support.
  • “No” is a complete sentence.

Resources

Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

Commentary #97: Thoughts on “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?”

When Al was on a recent business trip, I made a list of movies I wanted to watch after getting home from work. Having little success in locating many of them through Netflix, Amazon, and Hulu, I found Won’t You Be My Neighbor? through Amazon Prime Video.

I’d heard this documentary made you cry, and it’s definitely true. I learned a lot about Mr. Rogers, both the man and the genesis of the television show.

Morgan Neville (20 Feet from Stardom, Best of Enemies: Buckley vs. Vidal) is masterful storyteller.

I was a bit worried about the length – A little more than 90 minutes. I wasn’t sure if the “whole story” would be captured in that time frame. Neville, however, proved me wrong.

The interviews were amazing. Neville captured everyone he possibly could – Joanne Rogers, John Rogers, Jim Rogers, Elaine Rogers, Yo-Yo Ma, Francois Clemmons. And Fred Rogers and Koko the gorilla in archival recordings.

The show originally debuted in Canada in 1962. It began in the U.S. in 1966 on the regional Eastern Education Network. Its national debut was on February 19, 1968.

One of the interesting things about the documentary was seeing the origin story. I knew the show covered topics that most children’s programming avoided, but it was fascinating to see archival footage from 1967 and 1968, discussing the Vietnam War and Robert Kennedy’s assassination, among other things.

I started watching Mister Rogers before I could talk. New episodes aired on PBS until 2001, so I remember the “modern era” of the show. I learned about things from how Crayola crayons are made, factories, jobs, books, conflict, death, friendship, family, and more.

This documentary is filled with nostalgia, and one of the best things I’ve seen in 2019. I’m very happy Morgan Neville decided to do this – I hope it was as rewarding for him as it was for me.

Watching this now is the perfect lead-up to the upcoming film, A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, starring Tom Hanks. I can hardly wait for Thanksgiving week. You’ll find me first in line for tickets.

Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

Hot Topic #27: Purdue Pharma

Purdue Pharma

OxyContin bottles, the biggest drug made and marketed by Purdue Pharma. Image Credit: CNN

Purdue Pharma announced it was filing for bankruptcy on Sunday, September 15, 2019.

They have been in the news for so long.

What does this mean?

Hopefully this post will show you the history of this company, their impact on the opioid crisis, and what may happen next.


Purdue Pharma History

It was founded in 1892 by medical doctors John Purdue Gray and George Frederick Bingham.

In 1952, two other doctors, Raymond and Mortimer Sackler, bought the company. Older brother Arthur Sackler had a one-third stake in the company, which was sold to his brothers after his death. At that time, the company sold staples such as earwax remover and laxatives.

Purdue Pharma L.P. was incorporated in 1991, focused on pain management medication.

Manufacturing is located at three sites: Wilson, North Carolina; Totowa, New Jersey; and Coventry, Rhode Island.

Sister companies, also controlled by descendants of the Sackler brothers are Napp Pharmaceuticals in the U.K. and Mundipharma. These companies sell opioids globally.

In addition to OxyContin, Purdue makes pain medicines such as hydromorphone, oxycodone, fentanyl, codeine, and hydrocodone. Contin, a controlled drug-release system was developed in 1972. Its extended-release formulation of morphine, MS Contin, began in 1984.

OxyContin is Purdue’s extended-release formulation of oxycodone. It was released in 1996.

Arthur Sackler pioneered an aggressive marketing strategy decades earlier. Purdue pressed and convinced doctors to prescribe OxyContin, with incentives such as free trips to pain management seminars and paid speaking engagements. The drug was marketed as “smooth and sustained pain control all day and all night” when taken on a 12-hour schedule. In addition, it was touted to have “lower abuse potential than immediate-release oxycodone because of its time-release properties, even though there was no scientific evidence backing that conclusion.”

In 2000, just four years after OxyContin was released, widespread reports of abuse of the drug came to light.

At the same time, OxyContin was a “blockbuster drug” for Purdue. Between 1995 and 2001, OxyContin netted $2.8 billion for Purdue.


The Opioid Crisis

The numbers are staggering. According to an AP article published in January 2019, the opioid crisis killed 72,000 Americans in 2017.

An article from Quartz, published in mid-August 2019, was the summary of a meeting between an ER doctor and a former Purdue Pharma sales representative, and others.

“The company has not only faced public pushback for its role in the opioid crisis, but in 2007 Purdue was found guilty of downplaying the risks and overstating the effectiveness of opioids. The company also used legal marketing practices to boost sales, despite knowing the risks of addiction and dependence. These tactics are now at the center of a host of lawsuits against opioid manufacturers and distributors; those suits are currently making their way through the courts in Ohio.”

Some of the statements that Carol, the former sales rep, and Dr. Chris Johnson, made, were staggering.

“I remember hearing rumors early on that the bonuses for the Purdue sales reps were just incredible. Some of them were making $50 or $60,000 a quarter in incentive bonuses.”—Carol Panara, former Purdue sales rep

“Here’s the problem with a capitalist society: They have an incentive in you consuming more health care. You being healthy on your own isn’t good for business.”—Dr. Chris Johnson

Johnson: “With the passage the Affordable Care Act, something came into existence called the Open Payments Act. You can look up and see what doctors have taken gifts from pharmaceutical companies. And it turns out if you want to see where the most opioids deaths are, follow pharmaceutical gifts to doctors. Open Payments shows that half the doctors in this country take gifts from pharmaceutical companies. They’ve all taken the oath. Doctors are terrible at assessing how their influenced.  In my view, rather than relying on raising a hand and taking an oath, disrupt the incentives. Disrupt that reciprocity mechanism to get independent, and I would hope, more scientific thinking.”

In my area of southeastern Virginia, a recent discussion with the Opioid Working Group found that an estimated 8,000 to 10,000 people have withdrawn from the Hampton Roads workforce due to opioids.

In short, Purdue knew years ago its drug was dangerous and addictive, but they aggressively marketed it anyway.


What’s Next?

The company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. The intent for this filing was to stop the onslaught of lawsuits that the company has been facing. These lawsuit range from state to local governments, among others.

However, some state attorneys general have made it clear they will be pursuing additional damages from both the company and the Sackler family.

It has been reported that the company assets are not sufficient for the states. As early as last week, the New York attorney general’s office announced it had uncovered $1 billion dollars in wire transfers by the Sackler family.


To me, they’re running scared. This bankruptcy filing is their last resort, desperate to settle out of court.

In March 2019, Purdue and the Sackler family agreed to settle a case with the state of Oklahoma for $270 million dollars.

Twelve years ago, in 2007, a landmark settlement of $634.5 million dollars was reached, based on federal allegations the company had misbranded OxyContin. The company, along with three executives, plead guilty to criminal charges.

Image result for purdue pharma quotes

Image Credit: AZ Quotes

I look forward to future media coverage. It’s high time that a company like this is finally held accountable for its actions.


Resources


Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

Commentary #96: Thoughts on “Mindhunter”

Mindhunter Season 1

Image Credit: Mindhunter Wiki

This show right here. Holy cow!

I had heard many good things about it before I sat down to watch it. I took my time with it – I originally committed to one episode per day. This turned out to be a good thing.

This is one of those shows where you need to block everything else out, or as much as you can. Watching it sucks you in, but my habit of looking at my phone while watching a show or movie was broken pretty quickly. Otherwise, I would miss stuff. I started Episode 1 over at one point, because something interrupted me about 30 minutes in, and I wanted to make sure I was refreshed on the details from the very beginning.

I do have some issues with the show, but overall, I really enjoyed it. I really hope Netflix does a Season 3. I want more!


Season 1 (2017)

The show opens in 1977. Holden Ford (Jonathan Groff, Glee) is introduced to veteran FBI agent Bill Tench (Holt McCallany). They begin studying and interviewing murderers in various prisons.

I thought Cameron Britton as Ed Kemper was amazing! It was a bit surreal to hear these actors emulate these horrible men. And the sets looked and felt real!

The pacing was a bit hard to follow sometimes, but I also enjoyed the addition of Dr. Wendy Carr (Anna Torv, Fringe) to the team, and Bill’s wife, Nancy Tench (Stacey Roca) is such a good character.

As you follow Ford, Tench, Carr, and their lives, there are scenes set in Kansas toward the beginning and end of every episode. I thought Sonny Valicenti as the ADT Serviceman was great, but also incredibly creepy! No spoilers — But I highly recommend paying attention to these brief scenes every single time. They are important.

This season was captivating. There is so much going on with these characters! And I enjoy history, so seeing this based on true events in the 1970s was pretty groovy. Haha!


Season 2 (2019)

Image Credit: Mindhunter Wiki

It was perfect timing when I started watching the show. Season 2 dropped on Netflix on August 16th, which happened to be right as I finished up Season 1. I feel bad for everyone else who had to wait two years!

Overall, I liked the angle of Season 2. I knew a little bit about the Atlanta Child Murders before watching the show, but not a lot. I thought it was interesting they focused on it for the majority of the season, if not a bit disappointing.

Maybe it’s just me, but I wanted more about the history and development of the Behavioral Science Unit (BSU).

Regardless, I liked how this season wove the work of the BSU and the ongoing investigation in Atlanta together.

One key piece was Bill struggling to cope with his unfolding family situation in Virginia, while trying to help the investigation in Atlanta. Again, no spoilers, but this was so emotional and real!

Regardless of my slight disappointments, this season felt more emotional and riveting. And the actor they cast to play Wayne Williams is uncanny. The casting was so good!

Also, check out YouTube for several videos on how they made the sets and historical details look so good!

I’m eagerly awaiting the announcement of Season 3!


Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

Commentary #91: “Appalachia has a new story to tell, and it’s not an elegy” (Editorial)

Ridgeview High School Robotics Team

This is the championship Ridgeview High School robotics team from Southwest Virginia. Way to go! Image Credit: Dickenson County Public Schools

This was a fascinating editorial that one of my good friends, Mr. Lin, shared on Facebook a while ago. Mr. Lin used to be a teacher at my local elementary school, but has since created an impressive career in school administration. He has been an assistant principal and a principal in the Roanoke County Schools, Floyd County Schools, and now in Pennsylvania.

Here’s the link to the original post:


On The Roanoke Times’ website, the caption with the photo I used states: “The first team from Ridgeview High School in Dickenson County to win a state championship was its robotic team in 2018. That team went on to the world championship in Detroit, where it placed 9th out of 64 teams. Our editorial at left looks at how J.D. Vance’s ‘Hillbilly Elegy’ perpetuates negative stereotypes of Appalachia. There’s a different story the region ought to tell, and the engineering skills of students in one of the state’s most rural localities ought to be part of that new narrative.”

Every time I read something new about Appalachia, whether it’s an editorial or not, I always learn new things or discover something different. This editorial was no exception.


When I first heard about Hillbilly Elegy on NPR’s Fresh Air, I was immediately intrigued. I kept telling myself I was going to read it, but here we are, in July 2019, and I haven’t read it yet. Maybe that’s a good thing.

I didn’t realize Ron Howard is planning to make a movie about the memoir, either. I admire Howard immensely. However, I’m hesitant to see it, whenever it is released. I don’t appreciate negative stereotypes, whether they’re implied or not.


Maybe my feathers are ruffled because of my own Appalachian “history.” Much of my mom’s extended family hails from West Virginia. I have fond memories of many family reunions in Ripley and Beckley. I loved visiting my great-grandmother, Laura Bethany Powers, whom I am named after. She lived to be 102!

In addition, I started researching Appalachia on my own in high school and throughout college.

This editorial opened my eyes to the progress that has been made and seen in Southwest Virginia. Since it is the Roanoke newspaper, I understand why they focused on their own region. Still, seeing the positive statistics made me happy, and hopeful.


I still plan to read Hillbilly Elegy, eventually. I have another 15 or so books I want to read first.

But, after I read Hillbilly Elegy, I’ll likely look up the other two books that were mentioned in the editorial:

  1. What You Are Getting Wrong About Appalachia, by Elizabeth Catte
  2. Appalachian Reckoning: A Region Responds to Hillbilly Elegy, a collection of essays by scholars and community activists in the region, edited by Anthony Harkins and Meredith McCarroll

I found one other part of the editorial to be striking:

“Given all this talent, technology companies ought to be competing to locate in Appalachia, not acting as if it didn’t even exist. These are the stories we need to be telling the world — that we are a topographically-challenged and economically-challenged part of the country that is populated by smart, hard-working people.”

An interesting thought, and that needs to be explored much further.


Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

Commentary #90: “9-year-old boy raises nearly $80K to give bulletproof vests to police K-9s”

I stumbled upon this story on Facebook recently. Way to go, Brady!

Here’s the link to the post from my local news station:


In Ohio, the local news has been following Brady Snakovsky for nearly a year now. At that point, in November 2018, Brady had raised enough money to donate more than 50 vests to K-9s in nine states. That’s incredible!

Picture

Image Credit: Brady’s K-9 Fund

Bulletproof vests for police K-9s can cost more than $1,000. Brady got the idea when he and his mom were watching an episode of “Live PD,” where a K-9 did not have a bulletproof vest. With his mom’s help, Brady started a GoFundMe.

As of June 2, 2019, Brady has raised enough money to donate 85 vests. Currently, there’s a waiting list of 57 officers whose K-9s need the vests.

Now, Brady’s K-9 Fund is officially a non-profit organization.


The most recent dogs to be vested are K9 Mike, K9 Lemm, and K9 Hoss. They all serve with the MTA Police in New York City.

Other dogs have been vested in Ohio, Connecticut, California, and South Carolina.

I think Brady is an awesome kid! I’m so happy he was inspired to help these amazing dogs, his mom was willing to help him get started, and how his message has spread. Way to go, Brady!


Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂