CAZENOVIA, N.Y. (WSYR-TV) — New York Attorney General Leticia James filed a lawsuit in March against the Sackler Family, the billionaires behind oxycontin, blaming them for sparking the nation’s opioid crisis by putting profits over patient safety.
One of the victims listed in the lawsuit is a woman from right here in Central New York, Saige Earley. NewsChannel 9’s Julia LeBlanc sat down with her mother, Ellen Earley, who said Saige’s death could have been prevented.
Ellen said Saige escaped from the world with dancing, art, friends, and family. Until she was 16, that’s when she started using drugs and alcohol.
“Trying to get help for her around that time, a lot of counselors were kind of like, ‘It’s just mother, daughter stuff’ or ‘It’s just teenager stuff’ and I had a feeling that it wasn’t,” said Ellen Earley, Saige Earley’s mother.
It was a rollercoaster that continued until Saige was 20 years old when she had her son, Julian.
Ellen said her son turned everything around.
“I would say they were more bonded even then I was with either of my babies — I mean it was really awesome to see. And then — she had her wisdom teeth pulled,” Ellen said.
Saige’s dentist prescribed her hydrocodone, an opioid used to treat severe pain. She quickly became addicted to the pills, but when that high wasn’t good enough, she turned to heroin.
“She was in a precarious situation that any moment this disease could take her,” Ellen said.
Just days after burying a close friend, who overdosed, Saige came to her mom and said she needed help, ready to try rehab again.
“Everything in her journal was you know, ‘I just want to be sober. I just want to be clean and I just want to be sane and all of that was her desire,” Ellen said.
Just a plane ride away from getting help, Saige overdosed on heroin in a bathroom stall at Syracuse Hancock Airport. Her mother is now doing what she can to fight for Saige, connecting with other parents around the world, going through the same thing
“We need to love them, right where they are. and whether they’re teenagers or young adults, whether we know they’re using or we just suspect, to continue to love them,” Ellen said.
Ellen has been in touch with New York Senator Rachel May’s office. She’s hoping Saige’s story will help to make sure all doctors who are prescribing pain killers go through a screening.
That screening would involve testing for a history of addiction or mental illness before handing over the drugs.