Based on the events of the past few months and my experiences over the past eight years, I have finally reached the point where I needed to say something our system for dealing with addiction. While I did my best to keep it constructive, I wanted to make certain it shares my complete and utter contempt for a broken, corrupt, and woefully unjust, inefficient system.
When it comes to the legal system and treatment programs relating to addiction, the system is completely, totally and unnecessarily messed up. Law enforcement, legislators, the courts, the probation system have no clue how to effectively respond to the issues they are dealing with. They are ill-prepared and ill-equipped to responsibly manage or respond to what they are dealing with. Our laws are archaic and non-nonsensical. They are designed to deal with the issue of crimes related to addiction, most of which are non-violent, with no commitment to dealing with the issue of the addiction.
For the most part, for profit treatment programs prey on those in need by focusing on the financial bottom line, not on providing truly effective services to those who need it. Any facility that sells a 30-day program as beneficial and effective for treating an addiction is deceitful and preys on the ignorance of those they are selling their programs to. Yet, they do and it is considered acceptable, even though it borders on corrupt.
Our system is messed up. Everyone complains about how their tax dollars are being deployed, yet they have no clue where those tax dollars are being incredibly misappropriated. It costs more to enforce, protect, arrest, incarcerate, and manage post-incarceration our addicted “criminals” than it would if we were to eliminate the criminal component and actually treat the addiction. Imagine the financial opportunity if law enforcement, courts, and jails had their workload reduced by 60%. Imagine the fiscal savings available if that money was redirected to treat the addiction issue. Housing a criminal in jail costs 150% of what it costs to treat an addict in a residential treatment program. We are wasting our time “protecting society” from non-violent felons when we could be providing non-violent felons with programs to assist them and get them out of the cycle of addiction and incarceration, which benefits all of society.
Allow me to provide a personal two-part example of how pathetically messed up our system is.
Part One: Three years ago, my son was ordered to attend a treatment program relating to shoplifting and possession. It took him two weeks to get into a Medicaid supported program. He went to the treatment facility every morning for two weeks until he was finally admitted – meaning they had room for him. He was there for three days before he was required to attend a hearing related to different shoplifting issue.
He was pulled out of the treatment program to attend this hearing. At the hearing, the judge sentenced him to 60 days in jail and required him to start serving that sentence immediately. Immediately, he goes from a court ordered treatment to court ordered jail. Upon his release, he is required to attend the original court ordered treatment. When he goes back to the treatment facility he is turned away because he has been clean for over 60 days. They cannot use these Medicaid funds to pay for his treatment because he has not used for 60 days.
Now, he is not able to honor his court ordered obligations because he was forced to honor another court ordered obligation. He is in limbo until he relapses. Ironic, since the supposed purpose of this whole exercise, in theory, was to rehabilitate him while punishing him for his crimes. This entire situation reflects utter and complete nonsensical incompetence.
Part Two -Today: My son was clean for over six months. Given, he was hiding from the law, in plain view for the same previously mentioned issues. During this time period, he has actively engaged in weekly counseling, group therapy sessions, morning prayer group, and attending a local church. All these things in conjunction with each other were working. This was the longest period of sustained, self-driven recovery in his ten-year addiction journey.
Unfortunately, with all fugitives, he was eventually picked up in late April. At the hearing, the judge acknowledged all the work he had done and gave him a kind and supportive two-month jail sentence, which he happily, gladly served. When he was released from jail, his probation officer, going off of a year-old report about his past behaviors, told him he had to live in a sober living facility.
At this facility, he would not have access to any of the four activities that were working for him. Instead, he would be required to play by their rules and participate in their treatment program which is 12-step based. For the record, despite their overwhelming popularity, my son and I are adamant that 12-step based programs for substance abuse are outdated and moderately successful. Instead of plugging him into what was working, they plugged him into something that wasn’t working, nor ever worked. Despite the efforts to interact with the probation officer to explore how to incorporate some of his effective treatment activities by my son’s counselor, the PO was not at all interested.
As was predictable, my son made a stupid choice earlier this week, used, got kicked out of the sober living facility and now expected to go to Plan B – Salvation Army. The Salvation Army has a great program and a high level of success. This is a reasonable alternative, except my son has walked out of Salvation Army twice before. I can predict how this is going to go.
Instead of understanding what works, why it works and exploring avenues to incorporate things that have proven to work, the PO because of his ignorance, stupidity, poor training, workload or all the above, chose to ignore everything my son asked him, rather pleaded him to consider.
I understand, accept and acknowledge the poor choice and historically poor choices my son has made. I am sharing this not to excuse or condone his reckless decisions. However, I would love to know who is holding the PO accountable for his reckless, irresponsible treatment of the situation? Who is monitoring the efficacy of the sober living home’s treatment facility (where I paid cash for him to stay)?
Ultimately, this is a perfect example of how the system failed the addict. This is not the only story of its type. Yes, the addict failed the opportunity presented to him. However, it was not a program where he had any opportunity to consult or collaborate with a treatment methodology which would benefit him. Isn’t this what we are supposed to be providing – a path to recovery and rehabilitation?
I am completely disappointed and disgusted by the way our society treats the downtrodden. Until you find yourself in this situation, do not judge or comment from the safety and protection of your ignorance.
The system is irreparably broken. Something needs to be done. It needs to be done quickly. We need to get out of the politics of policy and process and deal with the issue before us. Our children are dying, while others profit directly and indirectly, and society is bearing the cost of both.