Two advisors for opioid recovery, Newt Gingrich, a former speaker of the house and Van Jones, President of #cut50, proposed that drug courts could help solve the opioid crisis in America.
A woman by the name of Chelsea Carter grew up in the South and started using prescription drugs in her early teens. By her early 20’s she started stealing to support her opioid addiction. She was eventually arrested and faced with more than 20 years behind bars. Instead she was sentenced to treatment court.
“In this special court, Chelsea met regularly with a case manager, counselor and treatment provider. She appeared frequently before a judge who reviewed her progress, congratulated her on her successes and encouraged her when she needed it. Slowly, Chelsea began to turn her life around. With the help of the court, she enrolled in school and earned both her bachelor’s and master’s degrees. Chelsea would still be in prison today if it weren’t for drug court. Instead, she is a therapist at a treatment center in West Virginia. Every one of her clients has an addiction to opioids, and many of them are referred to her through treatment court programs” (Gingrich, Jones, 2017, n.p.).
Despite Chelsea’s ability to turn her life around, there are over 30,000 people a year addicted to opioid drugs who are not so lucky.
“It is no secret that when it comes to politics, there is very little on which the two of us agree”(Gingrich, Jones, 2017, n.p.), Gingrich and Jones say of each other. “But we both believe this: The opioid epidemic is now the greatest public health and public safety crisis facing this nation. It claims the lives of 91 Americans each day, tearing apart families and ravaging communities. As the war on drugs demonstrated, we cannot incarcerate our way out of this problem” (Gingrich, Jones, 2017, n.p.).
Filling United States’ prisons and jails with people who are addicted to drugs or people who suffer from mental illnesses is ineffective. Many people feel that “Congress should look to proven solutions that promote accountability and treatment”(Gingrich, Jones, 2017, n.p.). Treatment courts seem to be worth looking more into, especially for drug treatment.
“Drug courts emerged out of the cocaine epidemic of the 1980s. The idea was simple, yet profound: Instead of jailing people with serious drug problems only to watch them fall back into the throes of their addiction immediately upon release, drug courts are an alternative to incarceration that use the leverage of the courts to connect people with long-term treatment and supportive programming” (Gingrich, Jones, 2017, n.p.).
The trial started originally as an experiment, but ended up being a huge success. In treatment courts, abuse issues and mental disorders are seen as public health issues rather than moral failings. Willing participants receive evidence-based treatment instead of getting thrown into jail cells. These programs provide a sense of genuineness and accountability that give people another opportunity to turn their lives around (Gingrich, Jones, 2017).
For more information on this topic please read “Drug Courts Can.”
Gingrich, N., & Jones, V. (2017, August 01). Drug Courts Can Help Solve the Opioid Crisis. Retrieved August 12, 2017, from http://time.com/4882507/newt-gingrich-van-opioid-epidemic-drug-courts/