Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Drug treatment center will get results, county officials say

LOCAL NEWS
By Dan Whisenhunt
Star Staff Writer
12-20-2006

Judges, county commissioners, the district attorney and the Calhoun County sheriff called a news conference in Circuit Court Judge Joel Laird’s courtroom Tuesday afternoon and told an inconvenient truth: Their current efforts to fight drug addiction in Calhoun County are losing. So the men and women who work in Calhoun County’s criminal justice system are takinga different path.

“We can ’t lock up everybody who’s addicted to drugs,” District Attorney Joe Hubbard said at the press conference called to announce plans for the county’s new drug treatment program.

“The drug problem has gotten overwhelming. We ’re doing the best we can do, but it’s getting the best of us,” Hubbard said.

The Calhoun County Commission last month purchased the former Anniston Star building at 216 West 10 th Street for $350,000 to house the new treatment program. Convicted drug dealers still will face imprisonment. But arrested drug users who are indigent and over the age of 18 now will have the option of treatment at no cost. Calhoun County Commissioner Rudy Abbott, a driving force behind the program and center, said the program will begin offering day treatment in February.

Sheriff Larry Amerson said the decision by elected officials to support treatment rather than keeping drug offenders locked up took courage. Amerson said that while prison may cure a person of his or her physical addiction, the battle for a user’s heart and mind is not so easily won.

That’s where Scott Batey and his team enter the picture. Batey, a substance-abuse programs coordinator for the local Health Service Center, said the program will use a validated method of treatment, including random drug screens and behavioral treatment. The 20-week program is divided into two phases.

The treatment center can help 80 people at a time, split between the two phases, Batey said. The program can treat people an unlimited number of times, he said.
“We certainly hope one time is enough. ”Batey said he ’s never before seen the amount of coordination that has taken place to create the new program.

More than 70 percent of the people currently in the Calhoun County Jail are there for
drug-related offenses, Amerson said. “The people here are saying we need something different,” he said. Judge Laird said in a prepared statement that the vast majority of people coming through the criminal justice system have a substance-abuse problem. “The rehabilitation center planned by the county commission will fill a void that has been missing in our criminal justice system,” he said.

The treatment center will be funded with a $2 million grant from the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Abbott said the Calhoun County Commission is looking for money for a program to house substance abusers at the facility. He said he hopes that program will begin in December 2007.

About Dan Whisenhunt
Dan Whisenhunt covers Calhoun County and the city of Anniston for The Star.
Contact Dan Whisenhunt
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I would prefer forced treatment not be on the horizon.

Having said that, I see this as better than prison, which is about the only option currently. Some people actually do need help with substance addiction and this is a way for them to get it.

Some people don't need help and this is a way for the judicial system and the public to begin learning that not everyone who uses drugs has a problem with drugs or needs help with drugs. According to numbers I have 85% of people who use drugs do so recreationally and never become dependent.

Pretty soon they will start to see it the way they see alcohol. Not many people, whether they drink or not, will advocate locking up everyone who has a glass of wine with dinner or a beer or three after work. That is when things will really begin to change.

I am very happy to see the officials acknowledge that the drug war is failing. It shows that my work in this state on behalf of drug policy and prison reform is starting to pay off. I only hope this program is better run than Calhoun Co.'s Court Referral Program, which is an absolute joke. It is a shame this program will not be run by TASC at UAB.

One comment in this article that I disagree with though is this,
"Sheriff Amerson said that while prison may cure a person of his or her physical addiction, the battle for a user’s heart and mind is not so easily won."

Prison is not now, nor has it ever been, a cure for drug addiction. If it were then we would not have recidivism rates as high as they are with drug users. Also, prison was never initended to be 'treatment' for drug addiction. Prison is PUNISHMENT and isn't designed to help people. Besides, it is easier to get drugs in prison than on the streets. This also isn't a battle for 'hearts and minds'. That is WAR terminology and makes me want to vomit til I rupture something. This is a battle against physical and mental dependency on any variety of substances legal or otherwise and the criminal justice system has NO PLACE in it as they are not PHYSICIANS.

Happy New Year Y'all,
Loretta Nall

5 comments:

Roberto C. Alvarez-Galloso,CPUR said...

I think there should be separation of state from rehabilitation. If a person wants to clean themselves of drugs, they will do it and resist attempts at relapse.
A Person must take responsability for their action and the State should not interfere.

Kathy said...

I remember when Spencer Bachus first ran for Congress he proposed jailing pregnant addicts if they refused rehab -- without addressing the fact that there was rarely an opening in state-run rehab facilities. When will our politicians open their eyes (or at least stop pretending to be so blind) and realize that the War On Drugs(tm) is as much of a failure as the war in Iraq? I bet you could give me a pretty solid dollar figure for how much we'd save every year if marijuana were decriminalized. I'd much prefer to use that enforcement money for treatment.

Loretta Nall said...

Here in Alabama we could save $95,000,000 a year just by releasing all of the non-violent drug offenders in our prison system. It costs that much just to house them and that does not include cost of law enforcement, courts, loss of productivity if the accused lost a job, destruction of the family unit and the almost certain dependence on taxpayer dollars for any children left behind.

We get only negative returns on the drug war in America.

pauline said...

Judges, county commissioners, the district attorney and the Calhoun County sheriff called a news conference in Circuit Court Judge Joel Laird’s courtroom Tuesday afternoon and told an inconvenient truth: Their current efforts to fight drug addiction in Calhoun County are losing. So the men and women who work in Calhoun County’s criminal justice system are takinga different path.
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pauline

brook said...

Drug addiction problem is everywhere in the world. Drug treatment is necessary for save much life. You’re doing a hearty job. It is a good social service for people.
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Brook

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