Lisa Mortier on how, by mentioning her work with DisposeRx, she starts the “medicine cabinet” conversation with parents of her daughters’ friends~
“It’s easy and inexpensive. It also is a nice discussion to have with other parents. When you’re trying to bring up the conversation of … Instead of an accusatory way of, “Whoa, have you cleaned out your medicine cabinet? Are you watching your child?” For me, it’s been a great way to sort of talk about, “Oh, I have this great new client. Have you heard about this product?” I never even realized that I should be cleaning out my medicine cabinet until I had that. For me, it’s been a great segue into having conversations with my daughters’ friends.”
Brian Wilson: Lisa Mortier is a Capitol Hill veteran on a mission. As a federal Lobbyist for DisposeRx she walks the corridors of power in Washington with a simple message – drug disposal is key to solving the opioid crisis.
Everyday on Capitol Hill, she encourages Members of Congress to consider legislation that deals with the issue of disposal of opioids – employing her years of experience, her extensive understanding of policy matters and the heart of a mom.
Lisa Mortier: We first started talking about this a little bit under the Obama administration. We had the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act. . .
President Obama: To combat the heroin and prescription drug epidemic that is plaguing so many of our communities.
Lisa Mortier: and the 21st Century Cures Act. . .
Senator Mitch McConnell: This is the product of a couple of years work, we know this is not the end of the fight but it’s one heck of a beginning.
Opioid Epidemic Declared a National Emergency
Lisa Mortier: Starting in 2017, we did start appropriating some dollars for it, but it really didn’t take effect until August of 2017 when the Trump administration declared it a national emergency,
President Trump: We can be the generation that ends the opioid epidemic. We can do it.
Lisa Mortier: And, That started 90 days of action. The first lady had a round table discussing opioid epidemic.
First Lady Melania Trump: It’s effected more than 2 million Americans nationwide. And sadly the number continues to rise.
Lisa Mortier: The president appointed his very trusted advisor, Kellyanne Conway, as their health czar.
Kellyanne Conway: With the Presidents leadership and the First Lady’s involvement we are confident we can help those in need across this country.
Lisa Mortier:The Department of Justice started cracking down on synthetic drugs entering the market. What really, I think helped push this ahead, as well as when Secretary Azar came into power as the Secretary of Health and Human Services. He declared this as one of his top pillars and priorities.
Secretary Azar: Mr. President thank you so much for the confidence that you have bestowed upon me and the incredible department you have entrusted me with.
Lisa Mortier: But you still need the resources, so you still needed Congress staff, and Members of Congress jumped on it because they were hearing from all their constituents.
Brian Wilson: One thing I know about Washington, and it gets a bad rap in many ways, that if people back home are screaming about something, it gets the rapt attention of Members of Congress. Is that what’s happening right now?
Lisa Mortier: Yeah, and unfortunately, it’s not just screaming, it’s crying and they’re seeing the pains of their constituents every day. And in this political environment where everyone is so divided and everyone is targeting certain people for their votes, unfortunately or fortunately, this issue crosses all demographics. And Members are really seeing this as something that they can do to help their constituents on an individual level and really make a difference for all these families in crisis and communities.
Brian Wilson: Doesn’t matter whether they’re Republicans or Democrats, it just doesn’t matter. The people who are dying from these addictions. This is something that goes across party lines.
Bipartisan Opioid Crisis Number One Legislative Priority
Lisa Mortier: Yes. And that’s why I see this being something that is going to get addressed this year, even though we keep going back and forth with how much time is in Congress. This is one of those issues that is bipartisan and across the aisle and bicameral, that everyone really wants to focus on. You have Chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee saying that this is number one legislative priority to try to get it moving.
Brian Wilson: I guess your goal as a member of the DisposeRX team is to make sure that as they have these conversations and they start to write the legislation, that there’s an understanding that sometimes you can sort of nip this thing in the bud by simply disposing effectively and safely of the drugs that are in the medicine cabinet.
Lisa Mortier: What’s so exciting about DisposeRX is it’s such an innovative product. And even when the opioid epidemic was first brought up to the public stage, even if we’re saying when President Trump declared it a national health emergency, DisposeRX wasn’t even on the market. It just came in the market of January 2018. So, what we spend most of our time on is making sure Members and staff are educated that we are out there and this is a real opportunity for families and an inexpensive easy way to dispose of their medicine. It’s been really exciting to see the reaction we are getting from Members and staff that are still amazed and have not heard of us before our meeting.
Brian Wilson: Some people will talk about lobbyist is being evil creatures.
Lisa Mortier: Sometimes.
Brian Wilson: I don’t think you’re an evil creature.
Lisa Mortier: I have times, yes.
Brian Wilson: But I get the sense that this must be something that you feel like, hey, here’s a thing I can do that actually could change lives for the better.
Changing Lives for the Better
Lisa Mortier: For me, it’s an honor to be able to work on this team. I feel like my whole law firm at Steptoe & Johnson also believes that, that not every day that we have something that we can advocate for that we feel so passionate about that can see the immediate result. Usually, what we do on Capitol Hill takes 10, 15 years for us to see it play out, but with DisposeRX, if we can get disposal part of the conversation and families being able to do their small role, it’s very exciting for me.
Brian Wilson: No matter how good the policy, it has to be backed up with some dollars.
Lisa Mortier: Yes.
Brian Wilson: Are the dollars going to be there?
Lisa Mortier: Well, that’s debatable. That was a lot of the criticism when Trump declared it being a national public health emergency but wasn’t able to put the dollars there. But I see real commitment from the House and the Senate to put the dollars there and put it in place. And looking at this of if we can stop it from the beginning and start trying to figure out how to combat this, then we’re spending the dollars anyway. When people are coming into the ER, where our Medicare Medicaid system, we’re already spending the dollar. So, it’s actually trying to get the money to spend more efficiently in much more productive manner.
Brian Wilson: Do they get it?
Lisa Mortier: Do Members of Congress get it?
Brian Wilson: Do Members of Congress get the depth and the breadth of this crisis?
Lisa Mortier: They do. I believe what it all is going to come down to is the funding level, and if people make sure that this does not become part of the elections, and people started, “Oh, we don’t want people to have a win on this.” One party or the other. It has to be something that continues to be looked at as bipartisan. Because you don’t want this to be an advantage for one party over the other. Because if it starts looking like that, I do have concerns that we may not see this move before the election.
Announcer: You’re listening to Opioids: Hidden Dangers, New Hope. More when we return.
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You never threw them out, so they sit inside your medicine cabinet posing a risk to you, those around you and anyone who enters your home. Today going through medicine cabinets searching for drugs is done by people of all ages and backgrounds. In fact, over 70% of new opioid addictions begin in a home medicine cabinet. If storing unused and expired medications puts people at risk of accidental poisoning, addiction and death., why have them there at all?
We invite you to join the growing number of Americans who have pledged to clean out their medicine cabinets with DisposeRx. Simple and safe, DisposeRx is an environmentally friendly and immediate at home drug disposal solution. No more waiting for a take back event or driving to a kiosk. With DisposeRx consumers are now empowered to break the cycle of addiction and death that begins in the home medicine cabinet. Learn more at DisposeRx.com. Available online at Walmart.com.
Brian Wilson: As you’ve entered into this discussion with key players in Washington, DC, what has been the most surprising thing?
“The most surprising thing for me is how bipartisan it has been and how positive all of our meetings have been on this issue.” ~Lisa Mortier
Lisa Mortier: The most surprising thing for me is how bipartisan it has been and how positive all of our meetings have been on this issue. I have been around Washington for, as I think I told you, 20 years. And this is an issue that all Members are very passionate about. And all Members are sharing such personal stories in all of the meetings that you go into. Usually Members sort of, oh, they nod their head and say, yes, and they want to get something done. But on this issue, I feel when I am talking to any member of Congress about it, it is something deeply personal that they would like to get resolved.
Brian Wilson: Well, that’s because they’re hearing the stories back home. What kind of stories do you hear about it?
Stories of Tragic Loss Come Out of the Opioid Epidemic
Lisa Mortier: I mostly hear about people losing their children. From parents talking about seeing vibrant children having their lives lost. And then watching other family members having to step in and care for other children or watching just the addiction breakdown families, and families are really struggling to help each other, but also not knowing where to go. And there are times when people are so desperate. You have to be in a certain place when you’re calling your member of Congress to ask for help. Because most people that I interact with think of Congress and Capitol Hill is the last place you want to go for a solution for how long it takes.
Brian Wilson: Yeah. But relatively speaking, it seems that this is moving quicker than most issues would move.
Lisa Mortier: Yes, I agree with you on that.
Brian Wilson: But still the wheels of government grind slowly and exceedingly finely.
DisposeRx Demonstrates One Clear Solution to Opioid Epidemic
Lisa Mortier: Yes. But that’s what so positive about DisposeRX and why I think our meetings are going so positively. Is when we go into our meetings, we’re showing clear solutions. And we have already gotten pharmacies to be handing this product out to start disposing of medication at home already. We are doing events in Members’ districts and with different Members of State Government. And that to the Members of Congress, when we meet with them and to their staff, they view that as extremely positive. That we’re actually not even waiting for action on the Federal Government. We are moving ahead every day to see what we can do.
Brian Wilson: There are many agencies here in Washington that have a piece of this developing crisis. Tell me what’s going on beyond Capitol Hill and the White House.
Lisa Mortier: Yes. We had a really good meeting with Vanila Singh. She’s actually the chief medical officer for the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Health and Human Services at HHS.
Vanila Singh: It’s not only a priority in the Department of Health and Human Services it’s actually a White House priority. The drug epidemic as you all have heard has effected rural and urban areas in the United States.
Dr. Vanila Singh Wants to Ensure Pain Medications Are Available for Patients Who Really Need Them
Lisa Mortier: And she is an anesthesiologist in her past. She comes from a private sector frame of mind, and she wants to ensure that her patients have access to the pain meds. But also, she’s tasked with bringing all the agencies together to seeing what the Federal Government should be doing and should not be doing to combat the distribution of opioids, but also ensuring that people have access to the pain meds that they need.
Because right now, that’s the scariest thing for them. Is you have a lot of people in America with legitimate pain from surgeries, from cancers, that really need to have their pain address. And we can’t have them concern that they’re not going to have their medication. I personally think that’s why some people hoard medication in their cabinets, because they’re worried that when they really need the prescription, they’re not going to be able to get it. I don’t think people leave medicine in their cabinet because they’re not concerned that other people are going to get them, they just don’t even know that they should be thinking about it.
Brian Wilson: Are you a mom?
Lisa Mortier: I am a mom.
Brian Wilson: There’s nothing that motivates a mom more than protecting their child.
Lisa Mortier: Absolutely.
Brian Wilson: This is an easy way to protect your child.
Lisa Mortier: It’s easy and inexpensive. It also is a nice discussion to have with other parents. When you’re trying to bring up the conversation of … Instead of an accusatory way of, “Whoa, have you cleaned out your medicine cabinet? Are you watching your child?” For me, it’s been a great way to sort of talk about, “Oh, I have this great new client. Have you heard about this product?” I never even realized that I should be cleaning out my medicine cabinet until I had that. For me, it’s been a great segue into having conversations with my daughters’ friends.
Brian Wilson: What is your greatest challenge as you move around the corridors of power in Washington, DC, trying to send this message that we need to address this?
Mortier’s Greatest Challenge Working With Members of Congress on Opioid Epidemic Issues
Lisa Mortier: I think the greatest challenge is that this is something new, and the Members of Congress have not focused on home on site disposable for. And letting them know that we are legitimate, that it is a product that works and it’s a conversation changer and it’s innovative and we need them to start changing it immediately. That this isn’t something they can take five years to deal with. For me, that’s the biggest challenge.
Brian Wilson: It’s a solution that’s available today. Just often it seems that when we have a crisis, that the government takes a while to react. But they’re moving pretty quick on this.
Lisa Mortier: They are. They are doing a good job and they are moving fast. Especially as a mom, for me it’s very frustrating. I think they should be moving faster, especially when we have a disposal bill that passed the Senate. I think we only had nine people that voted against it in the House. My preference is, I do not understand and I talked with the Senate leadership and then with this Senate Health Committee and ask them, “This is something that can be UC’d, have we tried hotlining this?”
Brian Wilson: UC means unanimous consent.
Lisa Mortier: Unanimous consent.
Brian Wilson: Yeah. In other words, it’s such a non-controversial item that there really doesn’t even have to be a vote taken on this.
Lisa Mortier: Yes. That’s my feeling on it. Yes. They kind of laugh at me because I think they think everyone thinks that. But yes, I wouldn’t be a good lobbyist if I was not showing them the way
out. But I do think especially in our instance, some of the legislation could move that way before the election.
Brian Wilson: I get the impression this is more than just a job for you.
Lisa Mortier: Yes.
Brian Wilson: Tell me why.
More Than Just a Job
Lisa Mortier: It’s important for me. I believe that my passion to be involved in public service also means that you have to empower individuals and do whatever I can to use my skill of navigating the halls of Congress that I have learned from a variety of issues, but using that skill to also make a difference. I enjoy doing this because it is so innovative, and the people that are on the DisposeRX team and the doctors and the passion that has been brought is something that I have not seen in a long time.
Brian Wilson: What Washington does in the face of this epidemic is certainly important, but what’s just as important is how we as individuals treat our unused medications. Start by simply taking inventory of your own medicine cabinet. Then visit disposerx.com and learn how easy it is to responsibly dispose of expired or unwanted medications. Do it today before they become part of the problem. You could save a life. That’s disposerx.com
Announcer: Thank you for listening to Opioids: Hidden Dangers, New Hope. Subscribe today where you get your podcasts or visit opioids-hiddendangers-newhope.com for more information. This presentation is underwritten by DisposeRx.