The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Gretchen Burns Bergman: 619-670-1184

"The Empty Chair at the Holiday Table" Campaign Highlights Those Not With Us Because of Incarceration, an Overdose Death or Prohibition Violence

Mothers from the Moms United to End the War on Drugs National Campaign Speak Out About the Devastation and Loss Caused by Punitive Prohibitionist Drug Policies


Each holiday season, A New PATH (Parents for Addiction Treatment & Healing) and moms from around the country share their stories of loss while calling for an end to the war on drugs -- which has been so disastrous for tens of millions of families. Many of the moms leading this campaign have been personally impacted by the war on drugs.

The holidays are a particularly painful time for families - whether they are separated because of a loved one's incarceration, lost on the streets due to drug problems, in danger because of drug war violence, or have lost a loved one to accidental overdose.

Leaders of the Moms United campaign from around the country include: Gretchen Burns Bergman (San Diego, CA), founder of A New PATH, Moms United lead organizer and the mother of two sons who have struggled with heroin addiction and incarceration; Julia Negron (Florida), a mother of a son whose son served several prison terms for drug possession; Denise Cullen (Palm Desert, CA), founder of Broken-No-More and a social worker specializing in grief counseling, whose son died from an overdose, Joyce Rivera (New York, NY) founder of St. Ann's Corner of Harm Reduction and the sister of an injection drug user who died of HIV/AIDS, Kathie Kane-Willis (Chicago), Director of the Illinois Consortium on Drug Policy Roosevelt University, Charmie Gholson (Michigan), Director of Michigan Moms United, Joy Strickland (Dallas, Texas), founder of Mothers Against Teen Violence, who lost her son to drug war violence, Yolande Cadore (NY, NY) director of Strategic Partnerships, Drug Policy Alliance.

"I have painful memories of holidays when my son was absent because he was locked behind bars for drug use, and of family celebrations when one of my sons wasn't included because he was lost in the maze of his addiction." - Gretchen Burns Bergman

"We haven't celebrated the holidays since 2008, when my son died of an accidental overdose. We can't escape the emptiness." - Denise Cullen

"In each of these years, 1987, 1994 and 2012 I lost a sibling because they/their partners were prevented access to a $0.07 sterile syringe. Their children lost parents. Let's take responsibility for our drug policy. Let's welcome our loved ones back home because their foibles are human. Let's not allow any more empty chairs at anyone's table." - Joyce Rivera

Each holiday season Moms United gathers photos featuring a chair with a picture of a lost or missing loved one, and a sign with one of these statements: incarceration, accidental overdose, drug war violence, or stigma. These photos will become a part of a growing collection of personal stories of loss. Moms United has also created a moving and poignant video featuring these haunting pictures.

Moms United is asking mothers and others to take action during this holiday season in three ways:

The Moms United campaign mission is to "end the violence, mass incarceration and overdose deaths that are a result of current punitive and discriminatory drug policies. We are building a movement to stop the stigmatization and criminalization of people who use drugs or who are addicted to drugs. We are urgently calling for health-oriented strategies and widespread drug policy reform in order to stop the irresponsible waste of dollars and resources, and the devastating loss of lives and liberty."

Moms United to End the War on Drugs is a project of San Diego-based A New PATH (Parents for Addiction Treatment and Healing), a 15-year old nonprofit organization that works to reduce the stigma associated with addictive illness through education and compassionate support, and to advocate for therapeutic rather than punitive drug policies.

Join us and follow the campaign on Facebook - Moms United to End the War on Drugs.

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To schedule interviews: or 619-670-1184

The Drug Policy Alliance is the nation's leading organization promoting drug policies grounded in science, compassion, health and human rights.

(212) 613-8020