Mandatory rehab needed for drug addicts

Is it their ‘freedom of choice’ for these people to be beaten down by their own afflictions?

Mandatory rehab needed for drug addicts

After mental health was deinstitutionalized, starting in the 1970s (defunded), many of these vulnerable people headed to the streets under the guise they would attend outreach programs. Programs, for the most part, that did not materialize. The onus of the ensuing societal problems fell to the police, who rightfully objected, as they did not have adequate resources or the back-up of judges for support when arrests were made. While the public watched revolving-door catch-and-release policing, our cities increasingly became places of lawlessness, and the vulnerable themselves became negatively affected by crime within their own group.

The great plan has come full circle since the 1970s with the street being the new institution for many of these people and the powers-that-be are standing on the sidelines wringing their hands over crime, mental illness, drug addiction and vagrancy. This should never have been a police issue. It is a health-care facility issue, and an issue of the impotence of politicians who for years seem more interested in getting re-elected than in doing their jobs. The liberal hand-holding has gone on far too long and has proven ineffective. Shelter and free drugs are not enough to help the addicted, or those with other mentally incapacitated situations, back to health and society.

It is duly noted that many mentally challenged people in our communities are functioning well in supportive atmospheres with caring families (sometimes not their own) and well-run programs. The problems discussed here go far beyond these good examples, mainly because of uncontrolled addictions.

Mental incapacity and drug addiction are pivotal forces in driving homelessness, theft, prostitution, vagrancy, poverty, drug trafficking, and the general chaos and violence surrounding these issues. These people need a lasting rock-solid-solution to their various types of mental incapacity. The current mental health model has failed society for decades. Yes decades. It does not make sense to throw more money at a broken system without first overhauling it.

In order to rebuild it we need to ask some serious questions: Is it their ‘freedom of choice’ for these people to be beaten down by their own afflictions? Some would say they are acting out their own self-determination. If this is the case then, the next question to ask is: Is it addiction/mental incapacity informing those self-destructive choices, or is it the person’s rational decision to stay in their current situation? Also, we have to ask: Who benefits from their debilitating incapacities, the pimps? The drug dealers? The petty crime lords? The slum lords? These ‘feeder-people’ that prey on the vulnerable need to be removed from the equation in order to help these people move into recovery.

No child dreams of one day becoming a prostitute, pimp, vagrant, addict, or criminal. These are not life choices, they are the adverse effects of other circumstances. More questions: Do we have the fortitude to help them back into society, or do we prefer them to stay as they are? Do they want help to get out of the trap they find themselves in, or do they prefer to stay there? Those answers should be clear enough, but the issues are multi-faceted. Homelessness can be a life choice (yes that is a fact) but it is usually the result of negative circumstance.

There is mental incapacity by addiction, as well as mental incapacity by other means, such as brain injury and/or chronic poor nutrition. All the variations need to be looked at separately and solutions found. However, the street is not the place to address this and the police/EMS should not be the ones dealing with it, on a daily, and sometimes hourly basis. What we are doing right now is not working and proposing to house these people away, replete with free drugs and babysitters, will not be constructive in the long run.

What is required is a regulated and properly funded live-in venue for these people with medical mandatory but compassionate, dignified rehabilitation, and possibly a job, a sense of purpose, and a meaningful life on the other end. It is a type of Nash Equilibria where what is the beneficial action to a single player needs also to be the beneficial action for society as a whole. Are there any politicians with fortitude enough to take this on?

Diane Moen

North Cowichan


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