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November 5, 2010

La Salle Graduate Student Marti Hottenstein
Fights to Save Others from Her Son’s Fate

On October 22, 2006, Marti Hottenstein experienced what no mother ever should. When she went to her 24-year-old son Karl’s apartment that day, she found him lying dead on the floor. Tests revealed Karl died of a deadly combination of the painkiller oxycodone, which he was addicted to, and methadone, which he took to help break his addiction.

“My son died because he wasn’t able to get the help he needed to fight his drug addiction,” said Hottenstein, who is working on her master’s degree in addictions counseling at La Salle University.

Following a car accident, Karl became addicted to oxycodone. Trying to break his habit, he went to a local hospital where he was told they could not help him. He later went to a local drug and alcohol center requesting rehab. “The center told him that he was not ‘bad enough’ to require inpatient care,” said Hottenstein.

When he didn’t receive the help he needed from the drug and alcohol center, Karl bought methadone (which is often given to drug addicts to help during the withdrawal process) off the street. “Since it wasn’t administered properly, he didn’t know that if you took methadone with even a little oxycodone in your system, it could kill you,” said Hottenstein. “I never thought I would buy a coffin for my son, let alone bury him and see his precious name on the grave site.”

Since Karl’s death, Hottenstein has dedicated her life to ensuring that no parent ever experiences what she has. She started the How to Save a Life Foundation, whose purpose is to help people with addictions into treatment and recovery houses who otherwise would not have access to care. Hottenstein has helped more than 300 people with drug addictions get into treatment since the foundation was created on June 21, 2007—the anniversary of Karl’s birthday.

In addition to her work with the foundation, she works as a Helping America Reduce Methadone Deaths (HARMD) diversion specialist providing methadone training. “I am not anti-methadone,” said Hottenstein. “I am against its misuse and abuse. If my son had been enrolled in a clinic and was prescribed methadone instead of getting it off the streets, he would probably be alive today.”

She has also teamed up with Bucks County State Representative Gene DiGirolamo on HB 2372, or “Karl’s Law,” which would establish a state-wide methadone review and incident report that tracks deaths where methadone is listed as a primary or secondary cause of death. According to HARMD, methadone is a contributing factor in more than 4,000 deaths per year, a number which is on the rise. Karl’s Law was passed by the Pennsylvania House of Representatives and is currently waiting for Senate approval.

“I never want anyone else to walk in my shoes. That’s why I do what I do,” Hottenstein recently told the Philadelphia Daily News. “I never want another mother to be me, and I don’t want another child to be Karl.”