Editorial l Citrus County needs a plan on the drug epidemic | Editorials

THE ISSUE: The drug abuse epidemic.

OUR OPINION: Acknowledgement and techniques.

The final 12 months has been one of many hardest our group has ever confronted.

Whereas we now have been targeted on the nationwide stage with the pandemic and politics, there was a associated tragedy that has performed out below the radar display. In Citrus County, throughout 2020, the speed of drug overdose deaths elevated by greater than 250 % in comparison with the earlier 12 months.

Citrus County’s charge of overdose incidents is the sixth highest of Florida’s 67 counties.

We’ve got an enormous drug abuse downside and it’s solely getting worse. COVID-19 has created a brand new degree of unemployment and private desperation. Isolation, loneliness and private despair have all performed a job in driving individuals towards the abuse of prescriptions and unlawful medicine.

The outcome has been a rising overdose loss of life charge and an alarming enhance in using Narcan, a nasal spray utilized by first responders to deliver individuals again from an opiate overdose.

Whereas it’s troublesome to confess, the nationwide “warfare on medicine” has been misplaced. For the previous 50 years, the technique with unlawful medicine has been to arrest these in possession and put them in jail.

The expertise doesn’t work for the drug consumer and it actually doesn’t work for the taxpayer. The common nationwide price of retaining a drug consumer in jail for a 12 months is $31,000. That’s not low cost.

For most individuals, the abuse of medicine is a psychological well being situation. These abusing the medicine are sometimes victims who shouldn’t be handled as criminals however as a substitute as residents who need assistance.

Lots of these addicted residents began out as medical sufferers who acquired hooked whereas utilizing prescriptions to take care of well being issues. They don’t seem to be burglars or financial institution robbers — they’re individuals in misery.

To make sure, the scurvy legal aspect that income off of the sale and distribution of medicine must be handled to lengthy sentences in our jails and prisons. They feed off of the addictions and weaknesses of others for their very own private income.

However we now have confirmed that incarcerating the drug abuser solely perpetuates the cycle of despair and dependency.

The rising statistics on drug abuse in Citrus County shouldn’t be a shock. Our group spends much less per capita on psychological well being providers than every other place in America.

Some drug abusers collect the power to efficiently combat the dependency on their very own, however that could be a very small proportion. Most individuals want skilled help and loads of it.

The excellent news is that Citrus County is lastly coming to phrases with its depressing file of dealing the psychological well being vacuum that exists right here. Lifestream has significantly expanded providers during the last 12 months and a brand new psychological well being campus has been proposed in Lecanto.

It’s a begin, however solely a begin.

There may be different excellent news. Sheriff Mike Prendergast has created a “behavioral well being unit” that will probably be known as out to take care of narcotic use, home violence and homelessness points. The methods of coping with a drug consumer could be very totally different than dealing with a burglar, bar-fight or theft.

Drug and psychological well being incidents want consultants at de-escalating conditions and exhibiting compassion for people in misery. We’re happy the sheriff’s workplace acknowledges the necessity to differentiate.

However there aren’t any simple solutions to this epidemic of drug abuse. Even with intervention and counseling, many individuals can by no means overcome their dependency.

And there may be all the time a brand new crop of youngsters who strategy experimentation with medicine with the conceitedness of youth and the assumption that solely they’ve the fortitude to not get addicted. We print photographs of the failures most daily within the arrest mugshots. You possibly can inform the drug addicted by the open sores that dot their faces.

Tod Hockert of the Division of Well being in Citrus County is assembling a process pressure of well being professionals, counselors and regulation enforcement officers to create an inter-agency strategy to the drug situation. That’s excellent news.

We’ve got been so distracted by COVID that we now have not been watching the alarming enhance in drug overdose interventions and deaths.

It’s good to see the person companies engaged on methods, nevertheless it’s apparent {that a} extra concentrated and unified strategy is required. Individuals are dying and we’re hardly noticing.

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