DANVILLE -- Almost 10 years to the day after their 10-year-old son, Troy, and 7-year-old daughter, Alana, were struck and killed by a heavily medicated driver, Danville residents Bob and Carmen Pack led a gathering Sunday to remember their children.
The event drew more than 100 friends, family, and well-wishers to honor the memory of the children and to advocate for legislative changes the Packs hope will prevent similar tragedies.
The couple is collecting signatures to get the Troy and Alana Pack Patient Safety Act onto the November 2014 ballot. It would require doctors to submit to random drug testing.
It would also increase the amount families of victims of medical malpractice can receive under California law -- set at $250,000 since 1975.
"Working on these efforts helps me heal," Bob Pack said. "It's something I believe in, and I can't do it for my two children, but I can do it for other children."
Since the accident, the Packs have embraced the public spotlight, starting when they successfully rallied prosecutors to charge the woman who killed Troy and Alana, Jimena Barreto, with second-degree murder rather than gross vehicular manslaughter. Barreto admitted to taking several doses of Vicodin, a prescription painkiller, and Flexeril, a muscle relaxant, before getting into her car that evening, and witnesses reported seeing her drinking earlier in the day.
Barreto had illegally obtained more than her prescribed amount of those drugs by filing prescriptions with multiple physicians, in a process known as "doctor-shopping." She was ultimately convicted of second-degree murder and is serving a prison sentence of 30 years to life.
The Packs' most recent victory came in September, when Governor Jerry Brown signed into law SB 809. The bill updates California's Controlled Substance Utilization Review and Evaluation System (CURES) database, which allows doctors to check if their patients are doctor-shopping.
Bob Pack applied his background in technology to help design the CURES update and his story helped get the bill through the state legislature, which took seven tries and the removal of language that would require doctors to check CURES each time they file a prescription.
The new measure would close that loophole, requiring doctors check CURES for every prescription of Schedule II or III drugs, in addition to requiring doctors take drug tests and lifting a 38-year-old cap on the amount of money families can be awarded in malpractice settlements.
Bob Pack said most politicians agree that the $250,000 cap is too low -- it effectively dissuades most lawyers from taking on malpractice suits,
But the Packs weren't able to find a legislator who was willing to introduce a bill that would adjust the cap for inflation, so they're turning to California voters.
"In 1975, gas was 57 cents a gallon," said Sarah Hitchcock-Glover, who was unable to sue doctors after her son died during a routine appendectomy in 2008 and still doesn't know what killed him. "[The cap] should at least be adjusted for inflation. But no one wants to take the lead and stand up against the insurance lobby."
There was a somber mood throughout the memorial, but occasional outpourings of joy as well. When Bob introduced he and Carmen's 7-year-old daughter, Noelle, to the crowd as a sign of his hope for the future, she gleefully jumped in front of news cameras to do an impromptu dance, and the crowd burst into laughter.
The memorial culminated with a releasing of butterflies and balloons to honor Troy and Alana's memory. There were also brief speeches by the Packs and county Supervisor Candance Andersen, who was the Danville mayor when the accident occurred, and State Sen. Mark DeSaulnier (D- Concord), who authored SB 809 and has worked closely with the Pack family over the years.
"Although I didn't know Troy and Alana, I think in a very meaningful way, I came to know them," DeSaulnier said to the crowd. "Clearly their spirit is in his work -- their spirit is here today."