Running alongside the COVID pandemic is another deadly and costly epidemic: addiction and overdose. The country was already in the midst of the opioid crises when COVID came along and created the perfect environment for addiction to escalate. We know that addiction is a disease of isolation and our current “safer at home” directives are a perfect excuse for an addict to turn away from society, and toward drugs or alcohol. We have recently talked about the rising rates of relapse that we have witnessed in our own community but this article from the Washington Post paints a bleak picture of how significantly overdose rates have increased since the pandemic hit.
Overdose is the ultimate price that an addict may pay, but it is certainly not the only consequence of substance abuse. The staggering rates of overdose indicate a growing population of individuals who will potentially incur legal charges as a result of their addiction. Common charges related directly to drug or alcohol use include DUIs or drunk in public charges. It is important to remember that addiction affects entire family systems. Often the legal concerns that an addict will face is in relation to those family systems; such as divorce litigation or child custody battles.
Facing legal challenges is not what anyone wants, but what if the charges received by an addict became an opportunity to get help? Sometimes the push that a person needs to consider changing their life comes from external motivation – wanting to stay out of jail, wanting to save their marriage, wanting to get their child back. When someone is struggling to choose sobriety for themselves the first step can often be the pain of the legal consequences that they are facing.
That external push isn’t enough. Addicts need people to advocate for their needs and provide them with opportunities to get treatment. We need a system by which lawyers can advocate for their clients to go to treatment instead of jail. Jail will not do anything to address the underlying causes of addiction. In fact, punishing an individual and then sending them home will do little more than add to their shame and self-defeating thoughts which perpetuates the problem.
If we could divert individuals struggling with substance abuse disorder into treatment instead of jail, we could drastically change outcomes. Sue Bright of New Directions for Women shares that, “One study found that if just 10% of people eligible for diversion were sent to addiction treatment programs rather than prison, we could save $4.8 billion in the criminal justice system while reducing future crime and health care expenses.”
Bridging the Gaps has seen remarkable success when attorneys recommend treatment for a client as early as possible. We have expertise in educating the court through testimony regarding the benefits of treatment in lieu of incarceration. When an attorney can show that the client is actively working on making positive changes, and they have negative drug screens to prove sobriety, the outcomes will be better for the client. The best results for a client come from beginning treatment sooner rather than later. Judges may be willing to postpone court dates if the client is actively engaged in a treatment program and able to verify their progress.
There is a concern that residential treatment programs have closed due to the pandemic leading to not enough resources to address the secondary epidemic of substance abuse. Bridging the Gaps is open, and taking on new residential clients. We have strict protocols in place that follow all CDC guidelines for COVID. You can see our residential protocols here. Please don’t hesitate to reach out to our admissions director for more information about our program 540-535-1111.