September marks the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s (SAMSHA) 30th Recovery Month! In these past 30 years we have witnessed the expansion of evidence-based clinical drug treatment and a shift towards addressing substance use as a public health issue rather than an individual moral failing. With new evidence and approaches, policy makers, medical professionals, and social workers are combating a decades-rise of drug related deaths: due to the often cited opioid-crisis. But one group is often left out of the conversation: young people.
Addiction is complex. Addiction treatment is even more so. John Oliver, the host of Last Week Tonight, provides an intriguing glimpse into some of the complexities of this industry during his May 20, 2018, episode. I recently watched the episode, and even as someone whose work over the past five years has centered on drug treatment courts (including drug treatment), I was shocked. I found it hard to believe that the $34 billion treatment industry, an industry that includes over 14,500 drug treatment facilities in the United States, is effectively unregulated at the federal level with “no federal standards for counseling practices or rehab programs.”
Sixty-five million Americans have a criminal record. That is 65 million people living with barriers to employment, education, housing, and other key assets needed to build a life. To raise awareness about the limits placed on formerly incarcerated people re-entering society, the Justice Programs Office (JPO) has joined other organizations in declaring April 2018 “Second Chance Month.” During my time at JPO, my work has focused on substance use issues, and I have witnessed the added stigma given to those with substance use disorders in the criminal justice system. Labeling a person as an “addict” and a “criminal” effectively reduces their humanity and serves as justification for denying them support services. This stigma is something treatment courts actively work against. These specialized court programs are designed to recognize the dignity of every person and provide them with an opportunity for a second chance. Continue reading “Overcoming Stigma with Treatment Courts”