In January 2015, Lori Mizwicki received news no mother ever wants to hear. Her 16 year old son, Mason Mizwicki was found dead of apparent overdose. The cause? Prescription pills he’d taken at a New Year’s Eve ‘skittles’ party he attended the previous night.
Mason was only a junior at Watervliet High when he died. He was a standout athlete among his peers and his sudden death left the Watervliet community stricken and in shock. Though in the months following his death, 36 year old Tara Teitsma- mother of Mason’s friend, Tyler Taylor- was sentenced to 15 to 40 years for supplying the fatal methadone pills (Tyler was sentenced to 10 to 23 months for his part), Lori Mizwicki wants the tragedy that struck her family to amount to more than criminal punishment: she wants to change the way we treat prescription drug-related crimes.
Fox17 of West Michigan spoke to the still grieving mother about her push for reform regarding underaged drug charges:
“Losing a child, it seems like yesterday. It goes without speaking, the loss of a child is forever, you lose half of yourself. The kids not calling for Mason were definitely fearful of being in trouble. If they’d made the call Mason would be here… they were afraid.”
It’s this viewpoint that lead Mizwicki and her family to drive for legislation changes. She hopes to reform the law surrounding legal consequences for people under 21 who report prescription drug abuse related emergencies. Earlier this month Al Pscholka, Michigan representative from Stevensville, introduced legislation that would reform the ‘Good Samaritan’ law. The current law protects underaged people reporting alcohol-related medical emergencies from receiving any drug-related charges. The suggested changes would also protect those seeking assistance during prescription drug emergencies.
The proposal is due to be voted on by the end of the year and Pscholka is hopeful for the positive impact it can make. With the current support of 30 lawmakers, the expansion of the ‘Good Samaritan’ law stands to save lives, even if it is too late of Mason Mizwicki. His mother urges parents to be open and honest about the dangers of prescription drug abuse and be aware of the realities of drug use among teens.
“It’s a topic folks don’t know a lot about,” she told Fox17, “this is one way to bring a common sense solution to make sure if this happens we can save a life.”
Mason’s former high school, Watervliet High, has also implemented a new policy to provide counseling for students who admit to drug abuse rather than punishing them. There is also a billboards advertising throughout Berrien County which read ‘Make a difference, know the act, save a life.’