Thursday, December 13, 2007

"Meth Free Texas" backs drug treatment

I ran across a pro-drug treatment website from the Texas Panhandle titled Meth Free Texas, whose founder Charlene Cheek had a column earlier this year (9/26) in the Amarillo Globe News titled "Drug addiction a matter for medicine, not the courts." The Globe News piece uniquely frames the problem of criminalizing drug addiction as something out of science fiction:
In his novel about the imaginary land called Erewhon, Samuel Butler deals with the criminal code of the Erewhonians, which makes it a crime to have tuberculosis.

The very notion of punishing someone for a disease seems preposterous, yet we do it a thousand times a day, every day, in courtrooms across our nation.

A hard hitting analogy, huh? Cheek quotes a judge from Butler's novel offering justifications for criminalizing tuberculosis that can be heard in courtrooms and DA's press conferences every day across the country where drug prohibition is enforced:
"It is all very well to say that you came of unhealthy parents, and had a severe accident in your childhood which permanently undermined your constitution; excuses such as these are the ordinary refuge of the criminal; but they cannot for one moment be listened to by the ear of justice."
Meth Free Texas advocates for expanding drug treatment alternatives, particularly in the Texas Panhandle. On the MFT website, Cheek laments:

The sad truth is, there are no "Treament" facilities in the Texas Panhandle. Why is that? It certainly is not because we do not have a need.

In Lubbock, Texas, Managed Care is our nearest state funded facility. Even then, there is a very long waiting list and a limited number of "beds" available. Anyone that has tried to find help for a loved one, understands this frustration. Unless you have the monetary resources and are willing to spend some "big bucks" for treatment...indigent treatment is almost non-existent
Good work, Charlene, and good luck! Finding this site reminds me I need to check up to see how new treatment dollars allocated to the TX Department of Criminal Justice this year have been spent so far, and where.

15 comments:

JSN said...

I appreciate this post very much because there is a considerable amount of overlap between the criminal justice system and the medical system. One of the important issues is the person who is a potential threat to their own safety who refuses medical treatment. Last month we had a mentally ill homeless vet die of exposure because he refused medical admission to the hospital and the jail would not take him (on an improvised trespassing charge) because he needed to be hospitalized.

I think there should be drug and mental health hearings at the front end of the CJ process where the CJ process can be bypassed if it is primarily a medical problem (some judges already do something equivalent). A judge does have the authority to order hospitalization and a doctor does not. Having the subject involved with the CJ and medical systems at the same time is bad for everyone.

Don said...

As a Licensed Chemical Dependency Counselor for the past 21 years, most of my career has been directly involved with Criminal Justice. I agree with the posts that criminal justice is not the place to address addiction, and the two should not be so closely tied. I go far enough back to remember when we did have treatment in Lubbock and the Panhandle. (I live near Lubbock). Wanna know what happened? Geo. W. Bush happened. He came into the guv's mansion in 95 after beating Ann Richards, who had some programs in place and some ideas. He commandeered the state agency (TCADA) on alllegations of misappropriation of funds, partly true, but then closed 80 percent of the existing publicly funded treatment beds on charges that they were also stealing money. Got the Texas Rangers. They went to almost every treatment center in the state that was receiving any TCADA money. The money was immediately cut off even if there was only a suspicion of misspending money. Headlines all over the place. Texas Rangers came on like gangbusters and scared the hell out of employees. I was working at a halfway house in Plainview that had a $25,000 grant. It was all surreal. When the smoked cleared, the treatment centers were mostly exonerated, except for a couple of big ones. (Austin Recovery, for one). But the exonerations didn't make the headlines. The face of alcohol/drug treatment in texas was forever changed. Millions of dollars were taken from TCADA and given to TDCJ. Now publicly funded "treatment" is mostly under the auspices of TDCJ. This is not a marriage made in Heaven. I enjoyed as much of it as I could stand and retired earlier this year. Counslers and CJ types are like water and oil. Who suffers? The suffering addict and the suffering taxpayer. I know I'm not being fair laying it all at Bush's feet. He deserves blame for only about 80% of it. Now I can't even bring myself to vote for a good Republican. Hang in there Ms. Cheek.

shaine said...

Just so I am clear, the idea is that drug addiction is a health issue, right? I think treatment for drug addiction is probably the best course. However, aren't most addicts in jail for other crimes they committed? e.g. theft, prostitution, assault, etc...

JT Barrie said...

Actually the DEA propaganda machine is telling people that Meth is instantly addictive and causes misery and crime. Of course they won't actively oppose treatment - although the real motive is fewer Constitutional rights and more police power. And of course, since fewer than 20% of users become addicted it is obvious that Meth - even the much stronger variety found on the streets - is NOT the problem those addicts don't have their real problems addressed.
That's what happens when you blame the drug for personal problems. It's a variation of "the devil made me do it". Most testimonials from Meth addicts come from people previously treated for Crack Cocaine. Those who live out their lives "drug free" often become religious zealots, workaholics or become other socially acceptable addicts. And they are just as abusive as they were when Meth addicted - only more socially acceptable.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

shaine, about 18,000 people per year enter for possession only, according to stats on MFT's website. If we only prosecuted folks when they committed related crimes, as your comments imply, Texas would have no prison overcrowding problem.

Charlene Cheek said...

JT... You might want to hop on the NIDA website and educate yourself more fully, regarding the effects of Methamphetamine on the brain.
Actually, there is an 80% addiction rate among first time users.

Joana Fowler, a chemist at the Brookhaven National Labratory says,"If you can conseptualize addiction as a brain disease rather than a moral weakness and lack of will power, you can more easliy bring resources to bear."

Methamphetamine is toxic to brain cells. After just one use, a tiny little tract in the brain is totally destroyed. That tiny tract in the brain is what allows us to make good, moral choices.

Dr. Ernst of UCLA states,"Methamphetamine may be substantially toxic to the cells we use in thinking. This long term and perhaps permanent alteration in basic brain chemistry is additional evidence that methamphetamine abuse should be considered a brain disease and treated accordingly."

Dr. Nora Volkow director of tha National Institute of Drug Abuse said herself," If you were to give me a drug right now like crystal methamphetamine, I would not have any idea where I might end up. In four hours, I would have just as good a chance of being in a crack Hotel in Denver as I would being here." She did not, however, mention the devil's involvement.

JSN said...

We screen for drugs when prisoners are admitted to prison in Iowa and at lot of them use marijuana (not a surprise). Is this incidental use or in part responsible for the crime?

If they were intoxicated on drugs when they committed the crime it is fairly obvious but in most cases it is not obvious. Our drug court judges discriminate against criminals who use drugs in order to accommodate the addicts who commit crimes to support their habit. The drug court staff have a lot more information about the offenders so they can make the distinction. Because of the extra staff drug courts are expensive and I agree they need to discriminate

Manikandan said...

I would welcome Dr.drew's information on drug rehab center and this should be a sensitive issue to deals with.

southcoast said...

Hi. nice blogI do have plenty of family members with addictions, mainly alcohol. I try to deal with their attitude changes and give them advice when I see them sober if I do. It's hard especially when is someone close you love.please advice them to take a drug treament program.

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smith said...

Just so I am clear, the idea is that drug addiction is a health issue, right? I think treatment for drug addiction is probably the best course. However, aren't most addicts in jail for other crimes they committed? e.g. theft, prostitution, assault, etc...
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