Prescription arrestee tries to undo addiction
By Jesse Phelps
When Mary Jane Franck was arrested
two weeks ago for picking up prescription medication without
her doctor's consent, she knows she made a mistake. The problem,
she says, is that she tried to take the law into her own hands.
"Unfortunately I took things into my own hands and didn't
go to the medical board," she said about her concerns that
a local doctor was allegedly overprescribing medication.
The rest is old news. The office of the doctor who Franck claims
issued the prescription for 100 pills of Soma, denied doing so
to pharmacy workers and, later, the police. Franck was then arrested
for calling in and picking up her own illegal prescription and
charged with a felony, which was later reduced to a misdemeanor.
No matter the reason for her mishap, the fact remains that Franck
went to get the pills. What was she going to do with them? Of
course, she's adamant that she never meant to sell them, something
that Ojai Police Detective Joe Evans said he knew to be the case
when he made the arrest. They might have been flushed sown the
toilet, or, as Franck's recovery sponsor said, they might not.
Julie, Franck's sponsor, preferred to go by her first name only,
in the tradition of recovery groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous
and Narcotics Anonymous. She said, "A lot of times when
we're recovering we have old behavior that sneaks in and, you
know, it's progress and not perfection. It's good to have people.
That's why there's sponsorship and programming and people you
call and say, 'Hey, am I doing this right?'"
It's that recovery community, says Franck, that saved her life.
And as she's become more healthy, her mission has become to protect
others in the community, particularly children, from the pain
In the last year and a half, the actions Franck has taken to
improve the health of Ojai are many. With counselor Shareen Torrez,
she was part of a guest lecture at Chaparral High School on the
dangers of drug abuse, organized by Dr. Bruce Gladstone. She
works with the homeless - she was homeless herself for quite
some time thanks to drug abuse - by staying with them at shelters,
praying and discussing alternatives.
In addition, "I've worked real hard with the junior and
senior high kids at my church and tried to educate them as far
as drug abuse," she said.
She helped get a 12-step program going at the Ojai Valley Youth
Foundation and was instrumental in the fight to get Alateen,
a group for young people who are affected by a problem drinker,
onto the campus at Nordhoff.
"I was meeting with the Alateen kids at a church,"
she said. "And we fought to get it over to Nordhoff, which
we did get. Hopefully next year, that will continue and we can
keep working with the kids over there."
She says she's hopeful that everything will work out for the
best with the current charge so she can help implement some other
plans in the works. "We want to do some more talks about
the OxyContin problem and some of the stuff that is going on
in the community," she said.
Franck's own story of recovery has taken her through, perhaps,
more troubling times than the one she faces now. In 1996, she
suffered a motorcycle accident that injured her so badly that
doctors thought she might not make it and recommended amputation
of her leg. In the end, she lost her foot and has since been
through 27 surgeries.
"I was supposed to die," she said.
After being released, she said, she stopped taking the medications
prescribed for mental illness. "After not taking any of
his stuff for four months I became well, I became very productive
in the community." said Franck. "That's when I started
Franck says that through it all, her friends from her recovery
groups and the one local doctor who stood up to help her have
made all the difference. Together, they created a regimen that
weaned her from psychotropic medications, making possible her
fight to keep others from experiencing some of the pain she's
had to endure.
The doctor, who volunteered through their church to "keep
a tight leash" on Franck and help her through the process,
has been there for her for the past 10 years. "He actually
became my guardian angel," she says.
Since her arrest, letters of support have poured in, including
character references from the youth group adviser at her church,
Dr. Gladstone and the pastor of her church, who wrote, that "she
has a real compassion for those who are struggling to keep life
together ... Our ministry to the homeless can only take place
because people like Mary Jane are involved."
Now, Franck wants only to be able to continue the good work she's
begun. She said she believes that if she's still alive after
all she's been through, she must have a part yet to play in life.
"If I can help one person, I'll consider it a success,"
"I want to let the community know that I'm not one of the
bad guys," said Franck. "I'm one of the good guys here.
I have been working very hard for the last 18 months in trying
to get these things off the streets and to work with the professionals
in the community and go to the schools and talk to the kids."
The Ojai Valley News
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