Now that the final report of the Keene Drug Addiction Solutions Task Force has been made public, I urge that action be taken on its recommendations. We do not want this report to languish on a shelf gathering dust as has happened to so many other data-driven recommendations on how to deal effectively with the addiction issue facing our communities.
The report’s highest impact recommendations were:
● Support legislation for increased treatment, prevention, and recovery resources
● Support intervention and prevention efforts earlier with youth
● Increase access to detox facilities
● Increase resources for treatment
● Improve systems for resource allocation
● Support a continuum of care
This task force was comprised of law enforcement, city, county and school officials and highly skilled experts in the field of drug addiction. We came together to share ideas and collaborate with one another in our community’s struggle with this insidious disease.
The $64,000 question is, “why do people self-medicate themselves in such large and increasing numbers, and what can society do about it?” The causes and solutions are very common-sense and well within our reach if we listen to the experts and follow through with the recommendations in the Report.
But to do so means moving beyond the status-quo. Elected officials at all levels of government need to go beyond politically safe, stigma-driven policies and rethink their spending priorities – especially as they relate to the so-called “War On Drugs.” Businesses must rethink their employee policies by adopting sensible addiction treatment and recovery strategies.
It is not just people in positions of influence that have the power to address this illness. We all have a role to play in helping to stem this serious and growing problem in our communities and among our friends and family members. If you know someone with an addiction, see if there is anything you can do to help. We all have to rethink the prevalent attitude that addiction is a crime instead of an illness.
One example of the kind of thinking that must change is that local methadone clinics draw “bad” elements into the area. Some people won’t admit that such clinics are treating people from our own communities much more than any outsiders.. If we hope to effectively address addiction, we must stop sweeping the facts under the rug.
The good news coming out of this Report is that collaboration has already started to get meaningful results. And, now that the Task Force’s job is done, its members along with other community members and elected officials are likely to continue a closer communicative relationship with one another.
I give huge kudos to Sheriff Eli Rivera, Keene Police Chief Brian Costa, and those involved in the Cheshire County drug court system for recognizing that there are causal reasons for addiction that go beyond criminal intent, and for instituting policies to process cases with an eye toward recovery instead of incarceration. Let’s continue to redirect funding from areas with marginal success to those that data-driven studies say are more likely to yield results.
In conclusion, I can’t emphasize enough the importance of changing the way our government, business and neighbors address addiction. The same old methodology is a proven failure. We can’t continue to pound our thumbs and keep expecting it not to hurt.
Terry M. Clark
Co-chair, Ad Hoc Addiction Solutions Task Force
14 Barrett Ave.