Author: Justin Mckibben
Around the country there is a wave a new and progressive initiatives changing the relationship between law enforcement and drug users. Government officials now lobby in support of such programs, and millions of dollars are being allocated to similar responses to a nationwide addiction epidemic. Probably one of the most famous of these revolutionary programs is one of the first; the PAARI program.
The Police Assisted Addiction and Recovery Initiative (PAARI) encourages police departments to abandon the old model of arresting and prosecuting people struggling with substance use disorder. Instead, the program encourages police to help people struggling with addiction seek help.
Now we have the first annual report from the PAARI program, and the numbers are pretty impressive.
Taking Pride in PAARI Program Progress
In the PAARI program first year report the numbers include detailed financial inventory. The 501(c)3 non-profit believes in the transparency of their progress, and is proud of the success to far. Of course, with such a groundbreaking and inspirational initiative, who wouldn’t want to show off?
To update anyone who doesn’t know- the PAARI began in Gloucester, Massachusetts, after the local police department announced on June 1, 2015 that anyone who walked into the police department and turned in either drugs or paraphernalia would not be arrested. The announcement told the citizens that instead any individual willing to seek help would be sent to treatment. This is the response from law enforcement in the wake of a spike in overdose rates in the area.
The report now boasts an amazing impact on the community. In the first year of the PAARI program, just Gloucester Police Department alone helped more than 400 people enter treatment!
Spreading the Message
That 400+ count doesn’t even scratch the thousands more being helped across the country due to the establishment of similar programs. The initial response from the Gloucester community was incredibly enthusiastic. This helped spread the concept of the PAARI program, as they moved to help other police departments implement similar programs. According to the report, the PAARI program helped train 143 police departments in 27 states.
- Augusta, Maine began training volunteers last November before implementing their own program.
- This summer Newark, Ohio, began its program. Officials said they felt driven to try something new once they were receiving at least one overdose call per day.
- According to the report, the PAARI program has partnered with 300 treatment centers in 20 states
- The PAARI program also secured hundreds of thousands of dollars in scholarship funds to help people access the treatment they need.
- Distributed more than 5,000 doses of nasal Naloxone, the opiate overdose antidote.
Unfortunately, not everyone agrees with this progressive approach. Some still believe that criminal justice is an appropriate response to drug use. Cape Cod, Massachusetts police department chose not to implement their own program because they didn’t agree with diverting the focus away from criminalizing active users. Some still think that shifting this perspective is somehow promoting drug use or giving permission.
Reinventing Police Intervention
Last April the Obama administration praised the Angel Program and PAARI program, siting that they reduced “crime and costs associated with substance use disorders in Gloucester” and rebuilding “trust between the police and the community.”
The first annual report makes a very exciting statement, saying:
“Communities that have joined PAARI have observed as much as a 25% reduction in crimes associated with addiction, cost savings by diverting people into treatment rather than triggering the criminal justice system, as well as an enormous increase in trust from their communities.”
Participants in the program speak in heavy praise of its methods and compassion for those it exists to assist. Even insurance companies contribute to the progress in the direction of compassionate and effective change.
Without question, these numbers are a new hope to so many. Over 400 lives in just one area over a year may have been saved thanks to PAARI. And at the end of the day, isn’t that the point; to protect and to serve all lives? The hope is that more programs like this can shatter the stigma of addiction, while simultaneously bridging the gap between the disenfranchised and the established authority to create a community that is better and brighter for both sides.
Drugs and alcohol have torn apart too many communities. Now the time has come for better treatment options and more compassionate health care. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, do not wait. Please call toll-free now. We want to help. You are not alone.
CALL NOW 1-800-951-6135
Author: Justin Mckibben
With the release of the United States Surgeon General report this month came the historical declaration that substance abuse is a public health disorder. While many have insisted upon this perspective in the past, it is the first time anyone holding the office of U.S. surgeon general has made the statement. In this groundbreaking report, Vivek Murthy described substance abuse stating,
“Not as a moral failing, but as a chronic illness that must be treated with skill, urgency and compassion. The way we address this crisis is a test for America.”
This revelation is a long-awaited victory for the countless advocates who have been hoping to change the way the world sees substance abuse and addiction.
Along with this statement, there comes a conversation about how to shift the strategies used to address addiction. Along with that comes the possibility for vast change and reform in the realm of criminal justice. How big is the impact of criminal justice on the addiction issue, and how could a change in perspective change everything?
Current View of Criminal Justice
The big thing here is that for years people have pushed for the world to see substance abuse and addiction as a health issue, both physical and mental. Changing the view from stigma and punishment to treatment ultimately means giving people struggling a better shot at recovery.
The failed War on Drugs has definitely put addiction and substance abuse in a place it doesn’t necessarily belong. Murthy’s report provides an update on drug and alcohol users in the country. According to its figures, in the last year alone:
- About 48 million Americans used or abused illegal or prescription drugs
- 28 million drove under the influence
- 21 million Americans currently suffer from addiction (substance-use disorder)
- Out of an estimated 2 million inmates in the nation, 65% “meet the criteria for substance-abuse addiction” according to a new study
- According to thePrison Policy Initiative, over 300,000 inmates currently in state and federal prisons are for convictions related to drugs.
These statistics place a severe strain on the criminal justice system far beyond federal prisons.
- Local and county jails have held thousands of these same individuals
- Tens of thousands lost driving privileges due to drunk driving
- Millions served time and were put on probation
- Millions became repeat offenders and cycled back through the system
The long and short of it is that in fact, the current system is not anything close to fixing the problem. And at $442 billion dollars spent annually on health-care and criminal justice for substance-use disorder, that is a VERY expensive failure to repeat over and over.
Reforming Criminal Justice
There are many variables that come into play when you discuss reforming criminal justice to be more effective for helping addicts. Some of these include:
- Ending the tactic of using fear of prison to keep people “in line”
- Reforming treatment programs through criminal justice system that rely on harsh penalties
- Ending unnecessarily punitive federal sentencing guidelines
A hard truth is the criminal-justice system is often the first to be in contact with struggling addicts. Thus many people only receive treatment once they are already involved in the criminal justice system, which often locks them into a cycle of failed attempts to clean up and repeated arrests.
Many would say it would be ideal to not have addicts and those battling substance abuse go through the criminal justice system at all; specifically for non-violent, drug-related offenses. They would rather individuals be directly diverted to a system that relies on medical and therapeutic rehabilitation.
The fact remains; even if state and federal governments begin addressing addiction as a health crisis, any reforms to the existing criminal-justice system will come with their own burdens. This kind of power-shift would have instantaneous economic effects due largely to institutional competition. The massive industrial prison system that has thrived for decades would of course fight to keep its funding if the government tried to divert those funds to healthcare programs.
The surgeon general’s report is a refreshing perspective and a much needed statement. But there is still money to move and the need for playing politics. Despite the fact that most believe mental health and public health institutions are better suited to treat addiction than prisons, some say they do not have the seniority or the political juice to make a claim on the resources to do so.
In the end, setting up an approach on the state or national level that would send addicts to treatment instead of jails and prisons would be an enormous task that we cannot logically expect to happen all too soon. Yet, there is hope. Many states now have more compassionate and treatment-based programs with law enforcement. Crisis-intervention training and other methods have reduced arrests and housing costs in many areas. It does make a difference.
The real difference to reforming the criminal justice system will come when more officials recognize that substance abuse and addiction are health issues and not moral ones, especially officials at the federal level.
Never forget that every day we all have the chance to influence change. Maybe we can’t change the criminal justice system over night, but we can make decisions that make a difference. Understanding addiction and fighting back is a victory itself. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call our toll-free number now to speak with an specialist. We want to help.
CALL NOW 1-800-951-6135
Author: Justin Mckibben
By now everyone who is paying any attention to politics has heard about the Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump. And if you have heard of Trump, you have heard of his infamous wall. Yes, THE WALL. The ‘life-saving, world changing, country resurrecting’ wall. Let us just call it THE GREAT WALL OF ‘MERICA! Because, it will of course be greater than that shabby wall some people in China seem to think is so great.
I digress… It appears that this wall will do more than inspire racial division. Apparently THE WALL will also solve the opioid epidemic in America.
Yes… that’s what he said…
Building a wall between the United States and Mexico, according to his recent statements, will be the best solution to this issue.
The Wall against Opiates
This astonishing revelation was made during a town hall meeting in Columbus, Ohio on Monday where Trump was doing a little Q&A with the curious citizens of the capitol city in the Buckeye State. After an audience member asked him to “cut off the source” of heroin, Trump stated:
“We’re not gonna let this crap come into our country and poison our youth and poison our people, and it comes in mostly from the southern border,”
Granted, since the 1990’s statistically the primary supplier of heroin to North America has been Latin America and Mexican cartels. So this whole concept of blocking the flow of heroin into the country isn’t entirely baseless. However, Mexico is definitely not the only way heroin gets into America. The source is also definitely not the only element to the outbreak. Let us focus on his thought process just to point out where else he speaks with a heavy stigma accent.
Heroin Problem Place?
To elaborate on his plan, Trump talked about campaigning in New Hampshire. His time there helped him realize the extent of the heroin epidemic. Voters in New Hampshire town hall meetings consistently said that their biggest concern was heroin, which surprised Trump. The next thing he had to say was unsettling in a different context.
“My first victory was New Hampshire, which is a beautiful, beautiful place … This doesn’t look like it’s a heroin like problem type place,”
So wait… he means to say that only bad parts of town or less “beautiful” places are where he expects to find heroin addiction? Since he didn’t elaborate on where he would expect to see it, does this imply that Ohio is a place not pretty enough to be off Trump’s “heroin problem place” check list?
Ok, maybe those aren’t his words either. Still, thinking only certain people in certain places have a heroin problem shows he’s out of touch with the epidemic. Not to mention how disconnected this kind of thinking is from the truth about addiction.
While Trump was explaining his plan to wall off the drug problem in America, he said,
“They say, Mr. Trump, it is flowing across our southern border.”
But maybe… just maybe the New Hampshire residents were referring to the border between New Hampshire and Massachusetts. Drugs regularly travel in bulk via interstate highways into New Hampshire and the rest of New England from this area. So perhaps Mexico is way more south than New Hampshire is saying we should be looking.
WALL is LIFE
What Trump did fail to acknowledge is that many powerful opioids that end up on the black market, like fentanyl, originate from Chinese suppliers. So even if we make a huge dent in the heroin supply from Mexico, there are still plenty of countries that have been sending it over for years.
Also, Trump should note the accessibility of prescription drugs is a major driving factor for the opioid crisis. He didn’t, but he should. To have a comprehensive plan, you absolutely have to include addressing the Big Pharma companies involved in opiate medication production.
Trump did finally acknowledge the need for treatment. This is the best thing to come out of the discussion, because he did admit,
“It’s very hard to get out of that addiction, of heroin. We’re gonna work with them, we’re gonna spend the money, we’re gonna get that habit broken.”
This claim at least notes the vital need for treatment options, but lacks any structure or outline on how to address it. Any complete idea on how to defeat the opiate epidemic should include education, intervention and innovations for addiction treatment. But it seems Mr. Trump is more concerned with the U.S.-Mexico border.
Addiction treatment, education and prevention should not be cliff-notes to a drug policy centered on a grandiose design for this wall that is prophesized to “make America great again” by keeping the “bad people” out. It should be centered on the concept of compassion and awareness- two things that, like I pointed out earlier, Trump seems to be in short supply of concerning addiction.
I’ve said it before… the future of our nation should have no room for stigma, we need leaders who are willing to serve the interest of every American. Drug abuse and addiction is a devastating and deadly disease, and more needs to be done to help people besides blaming someone. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, think about who you want to be working with to find a real solution. If you are looking for a way to get your life back, please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135
(This content is being used for illustrative purposes only; any person depicted in the content is a model)
Author: Justin Mckibben
Drug addiction, and specifically heroin addiction, has plagued the country on a massive scale for some time now, and sometimes it seems as the days pass by we see more and more death and ruin created in the wake of one of the worst opiate epidemics in our history. Drug addicts everywhere are suffering beyond measure, and more still are slipping through the cracks every day.
Now, given the state of the situation, many are marching toward reform of drug policy and a revolution in substance abuse assistance in hopes of renewing the lease on life for the nations downtrodden. One state standing out in groundbreaking efforts is Massachusetts, where some unique and inspiring programs are changing the way drug addicts are treated in a huge way.
All Eyes on Arlington Outreach Initiative
All eyes have looked now to Arlington, Massachusetts as the local police department is now literally going door-to-door in the area offering drug addicts the help they desperately need.
Arlington Outreach Initiative is the title given to the efforts being put forth by the Arlington Police Department, who has collaborated with a public health clinician to reach out to drug addicts. The program has offered to put Narcan, the generic name for the anti-opiate-overdose medication naloxone, in the hands of drug addicts who request it.
A $5,000 grant from the Police Assisted Addiction and Recovery Initiative has been the primary source of funding for the program, which was created by Gloucester Police Chief Leonard Campanello after the Gloucester Program sparked an interest across America that ignited new conversation on the need for more progressive and supportive tactics to address drug addicts issues. Arlington Police Chief Fred Ryan has commented on the Arlington Outreach Initiative stating:
“Prior to the grant, we did nothing with the identities of the addicts. Frankly, we waited for them to go find a new dealer. The difference now is that we’ve got the resources to partner up with a substance abuse organization. I have a whole list … of people who we know are suffering from addiction. We’re now going to work with them and their families to ensure their survival.”
The Arlington Police Department according to Chief Ryan are willing to comply if an addict who they visit at home asks them to leave, admitting that in most instances drug addicts they visit would not accept help, or at least not immediately.
However, some drug addicts who initially refused help eventually did accept assistance through the program after a few days or weeks. Chief Ryan believes this innovative initiative will save lives and said that his department has an obligation to do everything in its power to prevent any of those addicts from a fatal overdose, even if it means being shot down a few times, saving lives has always been the goal.
Revisiting the Gloucester Program
A little while before this action took place in Arlington we reported on the town of Gloucester, where their program had gained a lot of national attention by providing the means for drug addicts to get treatment for their addictions simply by coming to the authorities and admitting their problems without fear of persecution. This program lit up the darkness by shifting the perception of drug addicts from criminals to afflicted individuals, giving support instead of strife.
Last May, Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr proposed allocating $100,000 to the Gloucester Program, which includes providing drug addicts who surrender drugs a number of resources including:
- Immediate help with treatment
- Greater access to naloxone
- No potential legal consequences
Addicts caught with drug possession also were given a chance at avoid a criminal record by completing an inpatient recovery program approved by the district attorney’s office.
Now Gloucester isn’t the only Massachusetts town to get some of the spotlight for extending a helping hand to drug addicts. Taking the lead in getting on the front lines of addiction treatment has definitely started to pay off in these towns already, and there is a great deal of hope more states will take up similar strategies. Once officials start to realize that choosing to rehabilitate drug addicts lives is more important than punishing them for their illness and the low-level crimes accompanying them it may be the catalyst needed to reshape the way we as a country treat our addicted population.
So I guess the next big question is; if the police knocked on your door today, would you accept their help?
The truth is, not everyone is lucky enough to have an answer to their issues with addiction knocking at their door. Every day men and women of all ages die due to drug addiction, and many never know the help available to them if they only seek it. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135
Author: Justin Mckibben
So as much as I personally like to stay out of politics, this information interested me about the way some of our most powerful politicians feel about the growing issue in America with our War on Drugs and whether some believe it has so far been a failed endeavor.
There have been reports that even our commander and chief of the nation has continued to speak out against some of the policies he feels are most counterproductive in the search for a resolution to the drug crisis.
In the press, President Barack Obama is persistent in trying to speak out against the war on drugs, and the president has also made a call for a reform in policies.
In a new YouTube interview, Obama made statements that he believes by treating drug use as a criminal problem, it is being “counterproductive” to the real issue. President Obama went even further by saying that nonviolent drug offenders should be receiving drug and alcohol treatment to help solve the problem, instead of sentencing them to jail time which only prolongs the suffering.
Pushing for Progress
Obama has been in the new several times in the last year alone for his efforts to change the way that drug law policies are enforced. Recently those actions have included:
- Asking policymakers at all levels of government to evaluate ways to reduce the number of people currently incarcerated
- Working with the Department of Education to reduce “zero tolerance” discipline policies regarding drugs
- Supporting efforts in Congress to reduce punitive sentencing
Obama was also in the public eye when he restated his stance that the federal government will not interfere with the legal marijuana industry in states that have permitted it. While he was not making any indication of supporting legalized marijuana for the entire country, he did show support for states like Washington and Colorado.
“We still have federal laws that classify marijuana as an illegal substance, but we’re not going to spend a lot of resources trying to turn back decisions that have been made at the state level on this issue. What I am doing at the federal level is asking my Department of Justice just to examine generally how we are treating nonviolent drug offenders. Instead of focusing on treatment, we’ve treated this exclusively as a criminal problem. It’s been counterproductive and it has been devastating in a lot of minority communities.”
So although the president did not in any capacity make moves toward legalizing marijuana at the federal level, Obama did however make headlines in January of 2013 by stating in another interview that he didn’t believe marijuana was more dangerous than alcohol.
Opinion on Prison
It seems that Obama’s biggest concern with current policy is that too many people are being put into a criminal system for possessing or consuming illicit substances, and that being sentenced to long terms of prison for nonviolent drug offenses is wasting an opportunity for real reform. He has recently been pushing for more utilization of ‘drug court’ policies for people using drugs.
The president has even admitted to using marijuana in his younger years, but he calls it “a bad idea.” He expressed concern and said he was troubled that poor kids, many of them African Americans and Latinos, are far more likely to get locked up for smoking marijuana than middle-class kids. However the president does suggest a more cautious approach, saying people who think legalizing weed will solve social problems are “probably overstating the case.”
The Obama administration requested over $10.7 billion back in 2013 to help support drug education programs across the nation, as well as to increase treatment availability. The president also made amendments to the Affordable Care Act which required insurance companies to cover treatment for substance abuse disorders, so to that extent it seems that Obama means what he says when he talks about shifting the focus to treatment instead of punishment.
Some people however feel this is not enough of a public health approach. Critics believe that while it may make some difference, it is still lacking the versatility that could be achieved by putting more efforts toward harm reduction policies. Many speculate that 2015 will be a big year for harm reduction, so maybe as these things change and policy remains a bigger issue, we will see a more flexible perspective.
Not everyone agrees with the way the War on Drugs has worked out, and far too many people have lost their lives as part of that statistic, but what we can all agree on is the need for change and the importance of getting the people who need it the right treatment to save their lives. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135