I’m concerned about the further criminalizing of people who suffer from substance abuse disorders. Any approach that isn’t balanced or leans heavily on law enforcement has historically proven to be ineffective. We are not going to arrest our way out of addiction. Here are other points to consider when looking at addressing drug use as a public health concern:
1) There needs to be a shift in resources to programs that work. Right now 2/3 of all federal and state funding for addressing drug use/trafficking goes into incarceration. This leaves very little for treatment.
2) Make treatment available on demand like other healthcare services. That’s great that law enforcement plan to make referrals for treatment but access to these services are limited due to budget concerns. Our state doesn’t have a budget and are currently holding up funds to increased treatment for heroin.
3) Invest in asset – based youth prevention services. Equipping youth with multiple pathways to a sustainable adulthood is essential in preventing substance abuse from developing. Unfortunately, prevention services for youth are typically the first to be cut.
4) Focus law enforcement resources on most dangerous and violent criminals. Right now, 1/2 of all drug arrests are low-level, non-violent drug users.
5) Demilitarize drug control efforts and focus on economic development. Jobs, better education, and business opportunities address the systemic issues contributing to substance use related problems.
6) Restore justice to the justice system (i.e., profiling, white bias in court, mandatory minimums, and corrupt law enforcement/lack of a accountability).
7) Respect state’s right to try new approaches. Often the federal government will block innovative state initiatives (researching medical marijuana).
8) Endorse real harms reduction approaches regarding substance use and HIV/other blood born diseases.
Just getting “tough on crime” is not effective. It never has been. We waged war on meth over the last couple decades and it didn’t make it go away it just changed how it looks. We waged war on crack cocaine in the 80s and 90s and destroyed entire generations of urban black communities.
Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results is insane.