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By Jeff Terrill
Fort Wayne Reader
A few days ago, Surgeon General Vivek Murthy issued a report entitled “Facing Addiction in America.” Previous surgeon generals have addressed important public health challenges over the years, such as AIDS and cigarettes. Murthy’s report is the first by a surgeon general, however, to confront substance addiction—calling it one of our country’s most pressing public health concerns. In the U.S., over 20 million people have a substance abuse disorder.
The surgeon general’s call-to-action report addresses the misuse, abuse and addictions associated with alcohol, illicit drugs and prescription medicines. Each year, 88,000 people die from alcohol abuse. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, over 28,000 people died in our country in 2014 after overdosing on prescription pain relievers or heroin. Staggering numbers but understandable because Americans consume 80% of the world’s opioids.
Substance addiction impacts millions of people each year– causing serious injuries, chronic health ailments and the harm extends to families and entire communities. Additionally, the addiction crisis is estimated to cost our country in excess of $400 billion each year!
Those who work within the criminal justice system are all too familiar with the high volume of defendants struggling with substance abuse. Often, those addictions accompany other underlying mental illnesses. In addition to alerting the public to the addiction epidemic, the surgeon general also set forth ambitious goals to improve access to treatment and to continue efforts to prevent those at risk. The surgeon general describes addiction as a “treatable brain disease.” He seeks to combine effective drug and alcohol treatments with mental health and primary care services.
According to the surgeon general’s report, 90% of the individuals in the U.S. that are challenged by a substance abuse disorder are not getting any treatment. What if only 1 out of 10 people received treatment for cancer?
At the local level, some trial courts are doing amazing work with criminal defendants struggling with addictions. Drug Court, Veterans Court, Restoration, Re-Entry, HOPE Probation are examples of programs that can really work. In addition, Indiana’s Division of Mental Health and Addiction implemented a Recovery Works program designed to provide treatment to Indiana residents who need help but don’t have insurance. Recovery Works aims to get help for people who are charged with or convicted of a felony and who have a substance abuse disorder and/or mental health issue.
Treatment works. Recovery Works knows that getting a person the help he or she needs greatly increases the chances that the person won’t commit crimes in the future.
You can learn more about the Recovery Works Forensic Treatment Program at www.RecoveryWorks.fssa.in.gov.
Jeff Terrill is a partner/shareholder with the law firm of Arnold Terrill Anzini, P.C. Mr. Terrill represents clients accused of crimes throughout northeast Indiana. You can contact Mr. Terrill with any questions or comments at his office at 260.420.7777 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Learn more about his firm at www.fortwaynedefense.com. This article expressed opinions and observations of the author, is not intended as legal advice and does not create an attorney-client relationship between the author and the reader. Please consult a qualified attorney with any legal questions or issues you might have. Thank you