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Occupied Territories To Hold Referendum Votes To Join Russia; Task Force Recommends Anxiety For Adults Under 65; Parents Spread Warning About Counterfeit Pills. Aired 11:30a-12p ET

Aired September 20, 2022 - 11:30   ET




KATE BOLDUAN, CNN HOST: Four Russian-controlled regions in eastern Ukraine have announced they're planning to hold referendum votes to join Russia later this week. It comes as Ukrainian forces, of course, have been making major advances to reclaim some of those same areas. CNN's Ben Wedeman is live in Kharkiv, Ukraine for us at this hour. Ben what is this all about?

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: But this is a rather sudden announcement by the councils in these four regions that are controlled or partially controlled by the Russians. Essentially, on between the 23rd and the 27th of September, they will hold a vote whereby people will vote on whether to join Russia for these parts of Ukraine to actually become part of the Russian Federation. One of the leaders of those breakaway republics said they were looking forward to joining the motherland.

This seems to be a tactic to change the landscape of this conflict after the dramatic offensive in the Kharkiv region by Ukrainian forces. Essentially, this has been in tow now for Russia, at least. They call it a special military operation. But if these regions become technically as far as Russia is concerned, part of Russia, it could change it from a so-called special military operation to a war because there is a war ongoing between Ukraine and Russia on those very territories. So we're expecting to hear a speech, a nationwide speech by President Vladimir Putin this evening from Moscow, where he will probably address the question of the referendum and obviously address this proposal positively, Kate.

BOLDUAN: Injecting even further uncertainty into what it could be -- what could be happening in this next phase of this war. Thank you so much, Ben. I really appreciate it.

Coming up for us, a new recommendation that most adults should be screened for anxiety now, what it could mean for you, and your next doctor's visit. That's next.


[11:38:57] BOLDUAN: This is just into CNN. For the first time, a federal public health task force is now recommending all adults under the age of 65 be screened for anxiety even if they don't have a diagnosed mental health issue. CNN medical correspondent Dr. Tara Narula joins me now with more on this. So these recommendations coming out are fascinating, this whole report, but tell me, what are they really getting at, who needs to be paying attention to this?

DR. TARA NARULA, CNN MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Right. So this is such a critically important issue, mental health in general. And the pandemic really highlighted this.

BOLDUAN: Yes, I was going to say, especially in the last few years.

NARULA: Yes, for us to prioritize this. So these are draft recommendations which means that they're open for public comment until the middle of October. But essentially, they recommended a couple of things. First of all, they continue to the recommendation from 2016 that all of those over 18 should be screened for major depressive disorder. Interestingly, they did not find sufficient evidence to recommend screening for suicide risk, even though that is the 10th leading cause of death in adults.

But what's really new and key, as you mentioned before, is that they did recommend screening those 19 to 64 for anxiety. They didn't find sufficient evidence in those over 65 but really, this is so important.


You know, there are tools to screen for anxiety that primary care doctors can utilize. They didn't talk about the screening intervals, like how often to screen, but we're talking about a really big, broad swath of conditions, generalized anxiety disorder, social anxiety, separation, anxiety, phobias, so affecting a lot of Americans.

BOLDUAN: A lot of Americans. And this task force is particularly influential because their recommendations help guide doctors in their clinical practice. And also they're pretty -- they're influential with health insurance companies as well. So what impact do they hope that this recommendation has?

NARULA: I think they hope it has a big impact. When you think about the lifetime prevalence, about 26 percent of men, lifetime prevalence of anxiety, 40 percent of women, that's a lot of people in this country --

BOLDUAN: 40 percent of women. Wow.

NARULA: 40 percent. And unfortunately, in a lot of cases, this goes undiagnosed. It flies under the radar. The median age is actually around 11 years old. So this is something that happens early on in life. And in general, it takes about 23 years for Americans to get started on treatment for anxiety, in addition --

BOLDUAN: Wow. NARULA: That -- for those with generalized anxiety, only 40 percent are getting treated. So why does this happen? Because a lot of times people don't come in saying, I have anxiety, can I get help? Sometimes they do. But in many instances, they come in complaining of headaches or stomach aches or chronic pain, or sleep disturbances.

BOLDUAN: Inability to sleep, exactly.

NARULA: Exactly. So it just goes undiagnosed. And unfortunately, you know, we talk a lot about depression but anxiety is a -- is just as painful, the suffering is just as real and in many instances, it's acquired suffering for years and years. And there are treatments whether it's pharmacologic treatments that are beneficial, or therapy, in particular, cognitive behavioral therapy. So there's so much we can do for people to alleviate that suffering. So it's really great that they're recommending this.

BOLDUAN: What could the screenings look like? Like, how is a doctor's visit -- could a doctor's visit be different when they -- when -- if they're, you know, trying to screen for this? Is it just simply asking can even open it up?

NARULA: So they're -- certainly, and I think that's the key. It's just put this in doctors' minds. This is something that I should be doing because there's so much the primary care doctors have to focus on.

BOLDUAN: Oh, yes.

NARULA: But there are different tools, as I mentioned, different validated screening types of indexes that you can use when assessing patients. And then if they pass that screening test, then they have to go on and have a confirmatory real diagnostic evaluation. But I think exactly what you said is right. It's just planting the seed in the mind of the doctor. This is something I should be approaching with patients.

BOLDUAN: This is -- may have effects on everyone, every family. It's great to see you. Thank you so much.

NARULA: You too. Thank you.

BOLDUAN: Coming up for us -- Oh, this -- before we go. I actually think this is a very important and good moment to remind everyone. If you or someone that you know is struggling with a mental health issue, you can get help 24/7 by texting or calling the new national crisis hotline which is 988. Thank you so much, Dr. Narula.

Coming up for us, after their son was poisoned by a counterfeit pill, one family is now using their loss to help others. I'm going to introduce you to two extraordinary people. My "CHAMPIONS FOR CHANGE" are next.


[11:47:35] BOLDUAN: The list of dangers facing our kids seems to grow longer each and every day. Well now, there is a new danger too many people aren't even aware of, its fentanyl, and it can be used as a deadly poison that can kill with just a single pill. I want you to meet two people who know this too well and are now turning their grief into action to save lives. Part of a week-long series bringing you extraordinary people changing the world for the better, these are the "CHAMPIONS FOR CHANGE."


BOLDUAN: Everyone's journey to having children is unique and personal and super special. I can speak to that myself. Can you tell me about what the journey to having children meant for you guys?

ED TERNAN, CO-FOUNDER, SONG FOR CHARLIE: Charlie, can you look at me and say Merry Christmas daddy?


ED TERNAN: You know, for me being a father was the most important thing in my life was to be a good dad. Bye --


ED TERNAN: Let it snow.

MARY TERNAN, DO-FOUNDER, SONG FOR CHARLIE: I always remember when I was a little girl that I just couldn't wait to have kids and we're very blessed to have these children.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Happy Halloween in 2000.

MARY TERNAN: Charlie was a very easy baby. What are you going to be for Halloween, Charlie?



MARY TERNAN: He was happy. He had a great laugh.

ED TERNAN: We kind of say sometimes we were almost there. We were so close. Charlie's about to graduate and he was in love and it was like we were almost ready to high-five and say well done. We did it. We raised great young people and sent them off into the world. And three weeks before he was supposed to graduate, it just exploded.

BOLDUAN: He looks so happy.

MARY TERNAN: Yes, they were so happy.

BOLDUAN: Even though he's gone, we talked him not --

MARY TERNAN: he's not gone. He's not.


MARY TERNAN: We still have his clothes in here.

BOLDUAN: Oh, Mary.

MARY TERNAN: I can smell him.

BOLDUAN: What happened? In 2018 Charlie was 2o when he hurt his back.

ED TERNAN: He was prescribed Percocet at the time of his surgery. Yes. He took it well while the prescription lasted and then stopped.


BOLDUAN: Then in 2020, he heads back to school.

MARY TERNAN: He called us and told us his back was hurting and we said call your doctor.

ED TERNAN: Well, somebody knows somebody on Snapchat that he's got some pills from before. All right, let's check them out. So they look at the menu and Charlie says, oh, look, he's got perks too. My back's killing me. I'll take one of those. What we put together is that he took what he thought was a Percocet, but turned out to be a counterfeit.

BOLDUAN: Is it the belief that he died within 30 minutes of taking that pill?

MARY TERNAN: It's probably less than that.

BOLDUAN: With his game controller in his hand.


ED TERNAN: That's right. He paused the game. We know he pause the game and just put his head down and just went to sleep. The doctors concluded from that he did not have a tolerance to opioids at the time of his death, so he wasn't addicted or dependent.

BOLDUAN: This wasn't even an overdose.

ED TERNAN: That's right.

MARY TERNAN: It was a poisoning.

ED TERNAN: It was a poisoning because of the deception, a counterfeit prescription pill, where the only active ingredient is fentanyl. There are certain dangers that we have in the back of our minds that we want to protect our kids from but a counterfeit prescription pill wasn't on that list.

BOLDUAN: It wasn't on their list. It wasn't on Charlie's list. And it wasn't on my list. I mean, I have two young kids and I like every parent worry about keeping them safe every day. But fentanyl is a synthetic opioid, 100 times stronger than morphine. The size of just a few grains of salt can be enough to kill an average adult man. So a lethal dose of fentanyl could be in any counterfeit pill. And that's why Ed and Mary Ternan decided to tackle this problem in a new way after they lost their son. They established Song For Charlie with the sole purpose of warning young people and their parents that one pill can kill.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If it's not from a doctor or pharmacist, it's not legit.

ED TERNAN: We started our first campaign about a year ago, a social media campaign. And in just a year, we have reached 52 million unique viewers.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There are so many of these things in circulation, like literally hundreds of millions.

ED TERNAN: And that's really where we're laser-focused is to reach them where they are and to warn them. Hi, guys. We have made dozens of presentations to school assemblies and in school classrooms and in community groups.

MARY TERNAN: This entire meeting is just dedicated to sharing.

ED TERNAN: We have a monthly awareness meeting.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Rick and I lost our son Logan last year.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: People still need to see what is fentanyl, so we have to go through that whole discussion with them.

ED TERNAN: We are at Times Square. I can tell you there's a lot more awareness now. Where we've co-sponsored a billboard. Two years after Charlie's death, then there was when we started.

BOLDUAN: Before you learned about Song For Charlie, and before you learned about Charlie's story, were you aware -- did you know much about counterfeit pills and kind of this whole world?

JASPER TRONCIALE, HIGH SCHOOL JUNIOR: Not really until I heard of another death from a kid more my age. It seemed like one in a million.

BOLDUAN: Seems like it happens to other people. Charlie and Charlie's story, what about that stuck with you?

TRONCIALE: What inspired me about it was that like me, he like plays games and I know he died like that. I don't really take drugs or anything like that. One time was enough to kill him.

BOLDUAN: So what are you doing?

TRONCIALE: So this is one of the Narcan safety kits that I put together. I got 2100 units of Narcan donated which reverses the effect of an overdose. And so my plan was to put little kits together that people can keep in their car. And inside there's a little pamphlet that shows you how to use Narcan as well as some signs of an overdose.

BOLDUAN: What are some of your favorite memories with Charlie here?

ED TERNAN: Seeing him to figure out how to body surf. Right?

MARY TERNAN: Yes. And loving the water. He loves the water. When I see a pelican go by and I see some dolphins, I just said thank you, God, and thank you, Charlie. You know, I know they're with us so makes it a little bit better.

BOLDUAN: The fact that your story -- Charlie's story through you is now saving lives, no question is. And honestly is very possible, that can include my own children's lives with the work that you're doing. What do you think Charlie would think about all of this, about these beautiful agents of change that you become?

MARY TERNAN: I think he'd be very proud. And he'd be hugging us. And he was hugging us. He knows that we're doing good work on his behalf.



BOLDUAN: They are extraordinary, aren't they? To give you an idea of the scope of this problem. Last year, fentanyl was involved in more than 77 percent of adolescent overdose deaths. But as we know from the turn-ins, many of these tragic deaths are not overdoses. They're poisonings. The DEA administrator actually told me back just in April that fentanyl is the most deadly and addictive drug that is widespread in the United States right now. To learn more, you can visit

We'll continue to share more of these inspirational stories all week, ending with a one-hour "CHAMPIONS FOR CHANGE" special this Saturday at 8:00 p.m. Eastern. Thank you all so much for being here. Thank you so much for watching that story and listening to the turnarounds. "INSIDE POLITICS" with John King starts after the break.