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Turning Personal Tragedy Into Change: A Lawmaker's Opioid Story

State Senator, Neb.

1811_Sara Howard 10a
Before the country’s opioid epidemic was being discussed on a national level, Sara Howard saw the effects of addiction firsthand. Her older sister fatally overdosed in 2009 from painkillers she’d begun taking to treat back pain. Howard’s family later learned that her sister had been receiving “almost a thousand pills a month” from different doctors.

The experience helped propel her into a career in public service, along with her mother’s late-in-life political turn. After a 30-year career in social work, Howard’s mother became a Nebraska state senator in 2005. Eight years later, she passed the torch to Sara, who was elected at age 30 to fill her mother’s seat. “Seeing how people responded to my mom, and seeing her work so hard as a member of the legislature, was impactful in terms of motivating me to run for office,” Howard says.

In the Senate, Howard has pushed for more transparency in drug prescription services. She succeeded in strengthening the state’s drug monitoring system and in implementing caps on prescription drugs for minors.

Read about the Women in Government program and the rest of the honorees.

Caroline Cournoyer is GOVERNING's senior web editor.
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