No surprise to many of us that opiate abuse is a national issue. Opiate abuse is occurring in every town in America and taking more lives than car accidents in most states. Local governments are doing everything in their power to help curb the abuse including changing the way they approach addicts through the legal system.
It has always been the norm to arrest drug users when they are found with an illegally controlled substances on them. They are booked and housed in the local county jail. If they are able to make bail, they are released and wait for their court date to face the charges against them. If they can not make bail, they do time in the county jail until their court date. In many cases they are convicted and released with fines or they are subject to more jail time. No education is given and no treatment for the substance abuse issues they face.
Changes are being made by many local governments to rethink this process. I recently read a quote from a sheriff in Ohio that read, “We can not arrest our way out of the opiate epidemic.” He could not be more right and this philosophy is starting to stick in many jurisdictions. Instead of locking these individuals up and letting them sit in jail, they are looking at new ways of treating these addicts. Right now when an addict gets out of jail, they normally go right back to using their drugs. If the addict gets arrested again for possession, they normally end right back in the same situation they started. The “Revolving door” concept for opiate addicts is very common in jails.
The same faces in each county are constantly being arrested, booked then released. They go right back to using then find themselves locked up again a short time later. I believe the counties would have much better luck if these individuals were sent for treatment to learn about the issues they have. Give them time to learn about addiction, get clean and remain clean for a few months. In most cases they will not commit crimes when they get out of rehabilitation once they understand their drug problem and receive help for it.
A problem in America is that many people are unable to afford treatment or rehab. A lot of insurance companies refuse to pay for it, so giving an opportunity for addicts to receive treatment rather than jail would be beneficial for everyone. You will not have the same people arrested over and over again and I really believe that it will make a giant impact in the community. It is obvious that the way things are going now it not working out well. It's time for our states to try new ways of combating the opiate epidemic.