I wrote a letter to President Clinton in fourth grade telling him I was coming to Washington, DC with my parents and I really wanted to meet him. After all, I had pressed the button for my Dad in the voting booth in the 1992 election—so I felt like I practically knew the guy! Sadly, The White House wrote back a generic form letter, and didn’t grant my request for a meet-and-greet. After getting burned by one president, I personally find it hard to dredge up faith in the office in general (also, I clearly give up really easily). But former heroin addict Samantha Frashier of Cincinnati, Ohio had a very different experience which might just rekindle my hope. She wrote President Barack Obama a letter this past July, and the man who will go down in history as “The Coolest President” actually wrote her back!
Dear Mr. President
According to Cincinnati.com, Frashier—who was arrested for heroin-related charges in October of 2013—has been in recovery from the stuff for almost three years. Despite her own miracle, she continues to witness those around her struggle with the drug while simultaneously noticing a serious lack of residential treatment options in the greater Cincinnati area. Despite myriad outpatient options, she believes the inpatient help is key. Frashier is working alongside Nest Recovery Homes to try and raise the money to create more residential facilities in the community, but their efforts to remedy the epidemic can’t possibly keep up with the rate at which people are overdosing and sometimes dying.
She tried to get funding through grassroots methods on her own turf by contacting local judges and police officers. When those efforts led to one dead end after another, she brought out the big guns…wait, maybe that’s not a great metaphor anymore for this country…she kicked things into high gear? Look, she mailed a letter to Barry O. at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue to see what he could do about the situation.
The President gets thousands of letters a day and can’t possibly reply to all of them (take heart, 4th grade me), but he does personally respond to four to five, every single day. He wrote Frashier back telling her that while he truly admired her own brave journey and efforts to help others, he himself is just as frustrated with the lack of quality care. In fact, he informed her that he tried to facilitate legislation that would put $1.1 billion toward funding for addiction-related programs, such as alternatives to prison for drug related offenses (whether that’s a viable solution is up for debate) and increased access to the overdose drug Naloxone (also not universally supported). But Congress said “no dice.” Frashier’s response was something along the lines of, “Yay, he wrote me back! But boo, he didn’t really help my cause.” What’s her next move? Now she’s writing senators, asking them to grant Obama’s funding request. She has a running list of Capital Hill folks to contact and she’s enlisted friends to help.
Taking Practical Action
We can all learn from this chick who is doing what she’s capable of, one day at a time. She’s not on social media saying “This sucks! Pray for me!” with a bunch of angry emoticons. Instead, she’s actually taking action, doing small stuff that she can actually control: trying to rope in local authorities who are accessible, reaching out to the people she has helped to elect into public service and sharing her own story of recovery with whomever she can. I feel inspired by this woman. This is a good story to remember on the days when we feel hopeless and helpless around the causes we care about. There are things you can do, even if you’ve got to start small and chip away each day.
Side note: I’m really gonna miss Barack Obama—and that’s not just because I’m not that excited about Trump or Hillary (def don’t think I’m alone on that). I don’t care what your politics are; you can’t argue with the fact that Obama is highly intelligent, extremely even-tempered, a powerful orator, undeniably charismatic and a straight-up bad ass. I think he has a gift for comedy, too. In fact, I sort of want him to be a comedic actor after he’s done running the government—but I’m sure he has books to write, speeches to give and humans to charm.
Let’s hope the next President and Congress will actually collaborate, and that we see some real change on the mental health support front. Key word: hope…unless that leaves the White House along with Obama, his basketballs and hot wife.
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