Our solutions to the Opioid Addiction Crisis in the 166th

Issues

Recently I sat in on a meeting in Ardmore and listened.  It was impactful to hear how alcohol, heroin and fentanyl have killed some of the youngest and brightest children in our community.  A few months ago I spoke to a resident in Haverford’s 8th ward who took me outside of his house and pointed up and down the street to show me the 5 children and young people who had been affected and harmed by drug addiction.

Their stories were tragic but unfortunately not uncommon.  This is because of our unrelenting stubbornness to look fully into the face of addiction that we must face if we are to save ourselves and our community from decline.  We should face the problem in our towns before it comes to our doorsteps like it did these parents.   

After over a decade working in the criminal justice system I am convinced that this machine must change radically in order for us to achieve the dual goals of protecting our communities and aiding our residents in their search for real justice.

The current approach to the opioid crisis is not working. About 91 Americans are dying each day from opioid overdoses. A new direction should be sensible and compassionate. Our community needs the benefit of Senate Bill 446 which would regulate sober living facilities by preventing fraud and the abuse of those recovering from this serious and debilitating addiction.  I heard a story of a young person who died in a sober living facility because she went to one which did not do enough to prevent drugs from being on premises. This is the purpose of having well crafted standards regarding these facilities and in Harrisburg I would support these kinds of approaches

As Representative for the 166th I would pledge to bring funding back from Harrisburg to aid our community’s detoxification and rehabilitation centers. In Harrisburg I would fight to increase the budget which could result in increasing the number of days residents are eligible for public funding for their use of a detoxification and rehabilitation center.  This would increase each individual’s chance of success.

Any new plan must be worked in conjunction with our law enforcement community. Officers know the areas to target enforcement and where the citizens need the most support. A new tool needs to be given to prosecutors and law enforcement officers that allows for a non-criminal way to ensure treatment but does not result in a criminal record for the addict. I would push for laws that focus on intervention and diversion. Once a person is successfully discharged from treatment and have shown progress in the community there should be a better mechanism to expunge the criminal charges that began the process.

At the first point of contact an officer should have another option instead of just criminalization of the person suffering from addiction.  I think we need to investigate a pathway that does not immediately lead to jail.  We need something like a temporary involuntary commitment in a safe and adequate facility that will detoxify this person before they can make the sober decision to partake in treatment voluntarily.  By giving them a chance as sobriety that does not involve jail we could do two things:  1. save money on prisons, Courts and prosecution and 2.  redirect those savings to an increase in treatment and rehabilitation so we can welcome our residents back without the stigma of a criminal record.

Additionally, If we can cut down on the number of individuals who suffer a criminal record as a result of their addiction we can effectively remove an impediment to their employability and this would put more people back into the workplace and enable them to maximize their potential and their sobriety.