In the two years since her son’s fatal overdose, Lisa Hicks said she has not stopped fighting to strengthen laws on the drug that killed him.
“We try to hope that it gets better, but we’ve just learned to adapt better,” she said.
Joseph Edward Patterson, 25, died Feb. 16, 2015, after ingesting fentanyl that was thought to be oxycodone, a milder painkiller. Fentanyl is 50 times more potent than heroin.
Patterson was found dead on the floor of a Shades Valley Lane home in Gainesville.
Casey Trichel of Winder is serving 15 years in prison for giving the pills to Patterson.
The day before the two-year anniversary of Patterson’s death, Hicks filed a wrongful death lawsuit in Hall County State Court against Trichel and others who were supposedly at the Gainesville residence.
Continuing with a network of people affected by fentanyl, Hicks has continued reaching out to legislators for action on the deadly drug.
“I haven’t stopped at all, as far as trying to get this pushed through. And I don’t intend on stopping, either,” she said.
Patterson died before his son, Joseph Gabriel Patterson, was born. Hicks now has full custody of the child.
“He’s doing really well and looking more like his daddy everyday,” she said.
One action she hoped would be passed was the Stop Trafficking in Fentanyl Act of 2015, a federal bill that hasn’t seen action since January 2016.
The bill would reduce the minimum quantity from 400 grams to 20 grams for high-level first offenders and repeat offenders, triggering a 10-year mandatory prison term for manufacturing, distributing or dispensing fentanyl. If the drug causes serious injury or death, the minimum sentence would be 20 years.
The latest action last year was being referred to the Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, Homeland Security and Investigations.
On Feb. 1, five Georgia state representatives sponsored a bill in the Georgia General Assembly, which would add the “sale, manufacture, delivery or possession of fentanyl within the prohibition of trafficking certain drugs.”
“Heroin is being cut with fentanyl, and therefore is just increasing the potency and the problems with it exponentially,” said Rep. Sharon Cooper, R-Marietta, one of the bill’s sponsors.
An offense between 4-14 grams would receive a five-year prison sentence and a $50,000 fine.
Anything greater than 28 grams would be 25 years in prison and a $500,000 fine.
The bill was combined with House Bill 231, which Rep. Lee Hawkins, R-Gainesville, calls an annual “clean up” for drug combinations.
House Bill 231 passed the House, and is now before the Senate.
“We put some of those drug combinations into law so our young folks cannot go to the little shops and buy over-the-counter preparations that have been manufactured,” Hawkins said.
“It should definitely be an issue, because there are still people dying from fentanyl on a regular basis,” Hicks said.
In December, the Drug Enforcement Administration released its annual national drug threat assessment report, showing an increase in fentanyl-related deaths
“Illicit fentanyl, manufactured in foreign countries and then smuggled into the United States, is a rising factor in the current overdose epidemic,” according to the DEA news release. “It is usually mixed into heroin products or pressed into counterfeit prescription pills, sometimes without the users’ awareness, which often leads to overdose.”