Thanksgiving Update

I hope you and your family are having a great Thanksgiving and Christmas season. Treasure every moment! I am so grateful for my wonderful family and friends that have loved and supported me through the years. Thank you all!

When you get a quiet moment, remember the families that will have an empty seat at their table this year due to the tragic epidemic of substance use disorders. They come from all walks of life. For us, this issue has become deeply personal and we are driven to do something about it. We don’t want any other family to feel this loss.

I formed Candles in the Wind Foundation, in an effort to help curb the epidemic of substance use disorders and opioid overdose deaths. I am drawn to this mission due to the tragic loss of my 37-year-old son, Trevor, from accidental fentanyl poisoning associated with cocaine use. He was one of over 100,000 deaths from overdose in 2022. There are thousands of parents, spouses, friends and family members grieving for their lost “Candle in the Wind” this holiday season.

During this upcoming Giving Season, will you consider a modest donation toward helping curb the number one cause of death among young people? Our commitment to you is that we will be good stewards of your generous donation and donor funds will go towards programs that truly make a difference. Donations are fully tax deductible.

We are also seeking volunteers and collaborations with other programs. If you would like to talk about possibilities, feel free to contact me! I’d love to hear from you!

Since founding Candles is the Wind Foundation and establishing it as a registered 501C3 tax-exempt public charity in May 2023, we have been busy advocating for change.

I was invited to join Baylor Scott and White Health Opioid Use Disorder Working Group to develop and recommend improvements throughout the entire BSWH system regarding how we treat patients with substance use disorders. We added fentanyl testing as a routine part of our toxicology screens (previously it was only done by specific order and we were probably missing many instances of fentanyl exposure). We are making recommendations to improve Emergency Department and Primary Care response to patients with SUD by making immediate evaluation and medication initiation available throughout the system so that no patient dependent on fentanyl or other opioids would be denied the opportunity to start medication treatments that can drastically reduce overdose deaths. We are advocating for improving access via telemedicine and Peer Support Specialists so that all patients can benefit from willing providers in spite of geographic barriers. Finally, we are advocating for education of providers to change attitudes and stop stigmas which discourage patients from seeking care.

An another front, I joined forces with Angie Stookesberry Rogers, DVM, another Aggie parent of a child lost to overdose, to advocate for the development of Collegiate Recovery Programs throughout the Texas A&M system. These programs are available at most major universities, including University of Texas, but had been resisted for several years by the TAMU Office of Student Affairs despite persistent efforts by Angie and others. We met with faculty of the Texas A&M College of Medicine for advice and support and Angie gained an audience with Chancellor John Sharp and gained his endorsement and support to develop the program through University Health Services rather than Student Affairs and the program is now being developed with significant support! Aggie students in recovery will finally have a central program to help them and encourage others to join them!

In my new home of Silver City New Mexico, I began to meet with groups of health professionals and nonprofit organizations, and was invited to make a presentation to local community leaders including representatives from community organizations, police, jail, District Attorney and town and county council members. The meeting was hosted and sponsored by Western New Mexico University and led to valuable connections within the community and inclusion in several community task forces addressing behavioral health and homelessness in the area. We have been supporting efforts to coordinate services and even provide mobile outreach programs. CITW Foundation has provided funding and support for point of care testing for HIV, Hepatitis C and Syphillus, and is advocating for more effective distribution of naloxone and fentanyl test strips to reduce overdose deaths. We plan to strategically support other nonprofits offering services that align with our mission. Collaboration is essential!

On a national level, I joined forces with other nonprofits to push for federal legislation to legalize fentanyl test strips and reform laws regarding access to effective medications for opioid use disorder. I joined the American Society of Addiction Medicine and have been an invited speaker for Continuing Medical Education presentations on Substance Use Disorders through Northwest Anesthesia Seminars.

Fortunately, these initial efforts have been inexpensive, and the costs have been supported by proceeds of Trevor’s estate and speaking fees for the CME presentations, but going forward Candles in the Wind will need funding for more impactful programs such as helping to cover the cost of medication, treatment, transportation and safe shelter for people struggling with Substance Use Disorders, and developing or sponsoring educational and public awareness programs. In order to maintain status as a tax-exempt public charity, a significant portion of our funding must come from individual donors.

If you prefer, you can mail a check to :
Candles in the Wind Foundation
346 Red Rock RD
Silver City, NM 88061-9205

Thank You so much for your support through this difficult time.

Gary W. Latson, M.D.
Founder and President, Candles in the Wind Foundation Inc.
A 501(c)(3) charity. Tax ID: 92-2438254

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