A slap in the face

Mitzie Nay


After losing my 19-year-old son to an overdose in 2015, imagine how excited I was that we gained a First Lady whose platform was addiction and recovery.

I run a small nonprofit, named after my son, aimed at substance use disorder (SUD) education and prevention, in addition to working full time. Because I am not a mental health professional and my job is not in a related field, I have been unable to participate in many of the Recovery Reinvented events.

However, I have heard many good things about them from other people, including those in recovery, professionals, and advocates.

In 2018, First Lady Kathryn Helgaas Burgum decided to start working with an organization called Addiction Policy Forum (APF). I have worked with APF in the past, from shortly after my son died. I thought I had found an amazing organization that was a champion of those who lost loved ones to addiction and those in need of recovery. In January 2018, I found out APF had received a large amount of funding from PhRMA. PhRMA is a lobbying group for many large pharmaceutical companies, including those who make opioids. If you do a web search for “Addiction Policy Forum” and “PhRMA”, you will find a lot of information that if not unscrupulous is definitely borderline adjacent. Also, take into consideration the fact that Miss Hulsey Nickel’s salary almost doubled after she accepted PhRMA’s funding. I’m surprised no major ND newspaper picked up on this story before Miss Hulsey Nickel spoke at the Recovery Reinvented event in 2018, but, the NDSU Spectrum did.

First Lady Helgaas Burgum ignored the implications of having a drug company funded speaker at the event and has continued to partner with APF. As someone in recovery from alcohol misuse, I don’t think First Lady Helgaas Burgum would think it appropriate to have Anheuser-Busch or Brown-Forman subsidizing our state’s efforts of SUD prevention or recovery, and, as a parent who lost a child to an opioid overdose, her partnership with APF is a slap in the face to me.