Human-Centered Approaches, Innovative Solutions to Our Addiction Crisis
We cannot jail our way out of our addiction crisis. Many local community organizations are working hard to help people in the throes of addiction and beyond, and new partnerships and initiatives continue to be developed. We must work innovatively to strengthen rehabilitation, counseling, job training, and educational services, all of which return people to themselves, their family, and their community, able to positively contribute to each.
We have experts on this issue in our community, many of whom I spoke with while attending the Ball State Substance Use Disorder Symposium earlier this year. I also engaged with experts at the state level, and residents whose lives and families have been touched by the addiction crisis. All of these people are needed in order to create a thorough plan to combat this crisis. While realizing this plan will take some time, each step brings us closer to a comprehensive solution, while also acting as a blueprint for further discussions and a negotiating tool for acquiring funding and pushing action.
The plan is not enough though. We also need to make substantive changes to how we interact with people involved in drug and addiction issues. Is our goal to fill up our prisons or to empower our residents to be the best versions of themselves, able to positively engage in their communities? I encourage you to look inward and hope that guides you to the second option.
Incarceration does not lead to the above mentioned goals. Based on thorough scientific research, we know that addiction is a medical condition. Why do we treat addiction differently from other medical issues, forcing law enforcement’s involvement against all data and evidence at our disposal? Imagine a process change where non-violent drug offenders (up to a certain level) move directly into a rehabilitation and empowerment program, removed from the legal system. In this program, they are evaluated by trained and caring professionals to determine their specific needs and then connected with appropriate care. The program and facility would be thorough, encompassing physical and mental health professionals/services as well as those focused on education, job training, life skills, and emotional growth, both in- and out-patient.
What do you imagine a comprehensive rehabilitative program like this would cost? Is it more than $68 million? That is the approximate number recently spent on the new jail. Imagine if elected officials had been more forward-thinking and innovative in their approach; what could have been done with that money? Maybe something exactly like this. Imagine also, the money that would be saved from our budgets for law enforcement, incarceration, and the courts if we shifted our focus in dealing with our addiction crisis.
Addiction is an issue that tries to destroy people. We need solutions and processes that build them, and our communities, back up. These solutions will take all of us, working with focused and consistent collaboration across areas and systems. In short, it will take the best of us. I believe we are up to the challenge.