Warminster mom fights for methadone legislation

Marti Hottenstein speaks at a methadone legislation press conference at a SOAR fascility in Northeast Philadelhia. Marti lost a son to methadone a couple of years ago, but still believes that methadone, if used appropriatly, helps drug addicts overcome addiciton, Wednesday, December 5, 2012, Philadelphia, Pa. (Maria Pouchnikova)

Marti Hottenstein was naturally despondent back on Oct. 22, 2006, when she found her 24-year-old son Karl’s lifeless body on the floor of his apartment.

Karl Hottenstein had died of a mix of the drugs methadone and oxycodone.

“I didn’t think I was going to breathe much longer,” his mother said of the tragedy.

But, in the last six-plus years, after the anger subsided, she has done plenty to help people like her son, who was seeking treatment for his addiction to oxycodone.

At the same time, she’s been working to help prevent other parents from losing their children to drug overdoses.

Hottenstein, of Warminster, founded How to Save a Life Foundation, which helps addicts get into treatment and recovery houses. She also works as a consultant at SoarCorp Recovery Center, an outpatient methadone treatment facility with offices in Chester and at 9150 Marshall St. (in the rear of the shopping complex at Welsh Road and Roosevelt Boulevard).

Last week, she joined state Reps. Gene DiGirolamo and John Sabatina Jr. and state Sen. Mike Stack at the local SoarCorp facility to celebrate passage of Karl’s Law.

The law creates a Methadone Death and Incident Review Team within the new Pennsylvania Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs. The team will consist of state drug and alcohol program officials and representatives from a narcotics treatment program, a licensed drug and alcohol addiction program, law enforcement, the medical community, a district attorney, a medical examiner or coroner, a family advocate and the public.

It will investigate cases where methadone was either a primary or secondary cause of death and make sure providers are following the law and best practices.

“This will raise the bar of quality care,” Hottenstein said.

Methadone is given as part of a treatment plan to wean people off drugs. It is also being prescribed in growing numbers by doctors to treat pain.

DiGirolamo, a Bensalem Republican, introduced the bill that passed the legislature and was signed by Gov. Tom Corbett. Stack introduced similar legislation in the Senate. Sabatina co-sponsored the House bill and voted for it in the Appropriations Committee and on final passage.

“It’s a really good bill,” he said.

Stack described methadone abuse as a “grave” issue, noting that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have reported a rising number of deaths attributed to its misuse. In fact, the CDCP has described it as an “epidemic.”

According to Stack, the best recovery from drugs is abstinence. For others, they need advocates like Hottenstein.

“She turned that loss into something powerful and productive and important,” he said.

DiGirolamo is happy that Gary Tennis, a well-regarded former Philadelphia assistant district attorney, will oversee the review team as head of the Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs. He is also thankful to have met Hottenstein one day while she was lobbying in Harrisburg.

“Marti is just an amazing person, she really is,” he said.

Hottenstein’s son attempted to get methadone at a hospital and a drug treatment center but was denied. He eventually got a dose from an acquaintance but unknowingly took the wrong amount, leading to his death.

Since her son’s death, Hottenstein has become an expert in and a supporter of methadone. She believes that methadone, when taken the proper way, can help cure addicts, like it does at SoarCorp.

The individual must want to kick the habit and visit a setting such as SoarCorp, just like someone attending Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous meetings.

“Methadone works,” she said.

The foundation was formed on June 21, 2007, which would have been Karl’s 25th birthday. Marti Hottenstein said the foundation is about giving people recovery and hope.

In that time, it has assisted more than 600 people, and Hottenstein delights in seeing former addicts become college graduates and productive, working citizens.

“Methadone works. We’ve had too many successes to tell me it doesn’t work,” she said.

Mark Besden, the SoarCorp regional project director, and Robert Stringer, director of the Marshall Street facility, were on hand for the ceremony. They presented Hottenstein with a plaque on behalf of staff and patients.

Hottenstein plans to continue her work in memory of her son.

“I have a dream that, one day, every human being will get the treatment that they deserve,” she said. ••

Reporter Tom Waring can be reached at 215–354–3034 or twaring@bsmphilly.com