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Treatment, Not Imprisonment

After forty-one years of The War on Drugs, there’s one thing that many people are agreed upon: it’s not working the way it is. There is more drug trafficking, more violence, and more death now than ever before. Prisons are bulging with traffickers who were not warded off of their “life of crime” by threats to lock them up there. Treatment centers have been established all over the country, with many community drug courts referring people to these centers. Insurance companies often pay for a good amount of treatment, but it still becomes an expensive project for many families. Meanwhile, we read that in the Netherlands people are sometimes automatically sent to drug treatment.

We, unfortunately, have a huge prescription-drug abuse problem. But fortunately, we are in the forefront when it comes to care for the addicted. Karen Wheeler, the addictions programs administrator for the Oregon Health Authority says, "There's absolutely solid, irrefutable evidence that there is a savings — always — in funding addiction treatment and prevention. You pay one way or the other." All of the research shows that treatment reduces crime and medical expenses even as it provides employment.

Liz Smith is a former addict who went through an intensive residential program in 2010. She said that, "Oregon is a good state for treatment. We have an abundance of treatment centers and detox centers, and a lot of states don't. We're lucky." Our Medicaid program here in Oregon covers substance abuse treatment, whereas those in KY and many other states does not. This means that there is a higher percentage of people who are able to get sober, and a lot fewer overdoses than there used to be.

Therese Hutchinson of the Oregon Health Authority says, "We look at addiction as a chronic, relapsing brain disease," said Therese Hutchinson of the Oregon Health Authority. "It is a physical health issue, and you treat it like a physical health issue."

We are still learning how to process the 228,000 prescription drug abusers per year as well as those who are addicted to all of the illegal drugs. Often there is a 2-4 week waiting list to get into one of our 213 treatment facilities. In the meantime, addicts are guided to other available programs or placed into support groups. Potluck in the Park provides free hot meals every Sunday to anyone in need, usually serving between 400 and 600 people in O’Bryant Square. There are so many private groups that are working to help the homeless and the addicts, also, that people are moving here from other states to get help and deciding to stay after they receive


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