Markey to be Joined by Opiate Addiction Advocate Joanne Peterson at State of the Union Address

Peterson’s organization “Learn to Cope” helps family and loved ones of those addicted to opiates and other drugs


Washington (January 16, 2015) – Senator Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) will bring Massachusetts opiate addiction and recovery advocate Joanne Peterson as his guest to the State of the Union. Joanne, the mother of a son in long-term recovery, founded Learn to Cope in Massachusetts to provide peer-led support, advocacy and education for family members of those addicted to opiates and other drugs. Massachusetts has seen a massive spike in overdoses from heroin and prescription drugs, rising from 526 overdoses in 2010 to 863 in 2013. It is estimated that approximately 65,000 people living in Massachusetts are dependent on opiates, of which 50,000 need treatment but aren't currently receiving it. Last fall, Senator Markey released a plan to address the prescription drug and heroin epidemic, outlining a series of policy recommendations for federal agencies, Congress and the Obama administration to act upon to address the current crisis. Since 2004, Joanne Peterson and Learn to Cope have been at the forefront of this effort to educate the public about the danger of opiates and are helping to get many people the treatment they need and families the help to cope and recover.


“Joanne Peterson and Learn To Cope are working tirelessly on behalf of thousands of families and patients in Massachusetts impacted by the heroin and prescription crisis, and I am proud to have her join me at the State of the Union,” said Senator Markey. “She is a shining example of compassion, strength and fearlessness for all who are struggling with addiction and recovery. Joanne and Learn to Cope are saving lives and bringing hope to families and communities who need it most.”


“I am proud of the hard work done in Massachusetts to save the lives of those suffering with opioid addiction,” said Peterson. “I appreciate the attention and leadership Senator Markey has put towards the opiate crisis in Massachusetts and around the country. I am so proud and honored to join him to hear from our president.”


Joanne was born Stoughton and lives is Raynham, Massachusetts. Learn to Cope provides support to more than 6,000 registered families locally and nationally, and has 16 chapters throughout Massachusetts and one in Warwick, Rhode Island. Learn to Cope is the first parent network to provide the overdose prevention treatment Narcan at each chapter. To date, Learn to Cope estimates that there have been more than 30 members that have saved a life since the organization became a pilot in Massachusetts for overdose prevention treatment in December 2011.  Peterson is a member on the panel for the Brandeis Center of Excellence team for the Prescription Pill Monitoring program.