I’ve been gone for a while…life had been going so well. It’s taken a significant downturn lately, and recent events have brought on this rant.
Son’s addictions have taken him to the bottom and he’s finally asked for help. Great. Now try to find a program in the US that will take an unemployed, under-insured man. Blue Cross, Aetna, sure we’ve got space. Medicare? um, yeah, but… No. Not Medicare. Medi-Cal. Same sort of service, but at a state level. It was all the coverage he could get through the Affordable Care Act. Medi-Cal, I have been informed by a well-known and respected hospital that there is a waiting list for a bed in Detox/Recovery. Six month-long waiting list? Meanwhile he continues to use and falls deeper into addiction. His only recourse is the ER. Not the place for an addict, since they eventually note that he is a ‘drug seeker’. Rather than treat them as they would treat someone in a wheelchair, suffering from stroke, or blind.
I want people to understand Addiction Is Not A Choice. No one gets up one morning and thinks, “I’ve never tried heroin, I think I’ll go score some. I hear it’s really addictive.” No, they think, “yeah, it’s addictive, but I’m not addicted to anything else, maybe I won’t be this time either.” Or any similar thought. Usually the addict is young, lonely, and in pain either emotional or physical, and they are unable to get legitimate doctors to listen to them. “Of course I’m seeking Oxycontin, I’m in pain you idiot!” Just because they see nothing in the X-ray, doesn’t mean he has no pain. Instead, a note is made in the file and they are labeled and addict and therefore lumped in with other undesirables. The addicts are today’s Unclean.
Search for Rehab Facilities. Count how many are touted as “luxurious”, “spa like”, and have a 360 degree view. Hundreds of them up and down the coast. And my son, because he lacks the resources is relegated to the bottom of a long list, left to his own devices for six months. A lot of damage could happen in 6 months. In that time, he could get arrested and sent to jail for three years on some drug possession charge. Left in a cell to go through withdrawals sick, alone and scared…I don’t care how tough you are, withdrawals make you feel like you’re dying and most people are afraid of that. No sympathy from the guards, they figure you’ve got what’s coming to you, what with you being some scumbag dope addict. Like it was a choice! It happens. To a lot of people. A poor decision, some bad luck or serious falling out with friends/family. That drug filled the deep black hole of depression, made me imagine I had a heart again. It made me feel better, why is that wrong?
The US justice system is how we deal with our societal pariahs. I believe we do need a prison system. But it needs reform. NOW. We must work to change the laws, states should have standardized sentences. Like all states should put your standard rapists away for a minimum 10 years, and wear a bracelet for another ten (for example). That way people like Brock Turner are held for an appropriate time, regardless of how well liked he is by the judge. Consider arsonists. Some are very smart and do their research. Arsonists live in states with lots of far away places to burn: California, Texas, AZ, etc. If Arizona’s state law says arson with no injuries to persons or property receives a sentence of 18 years. But in Texas they’d only get 3, wouldn’t you think that would attract the wrong sort of people to Texas?
What really needs to be standardized and seriously changed are the drug laws. Many of these laws were written in the 50s and 60s. We have gotten smarter and understand more about addiction and mental health than ever before, and yet we continue to lock up sad, but mostly harmless, addicts for $25 rock of crack. The police and lawyers have been trained for years to treat addicts like criminals. Just as people were once imprisoned for loving the “wrong” sex, we will see the errors in incarcerating our addicts.
I want to see doctors and those in the justice system treat addiction as a mental illness. Our justice system is broken, poorly run, and employs far too many people who don’t really care. Probably because of overwork and inadequate compensation. We need more mental health service providers, more doctors, hospitals. We need more classes graduating more nurses each year. We need Government money to fund these programs, not the nickel and dime donations volunteer groups raise.
The end result of this rant is my desire to do advocacy work in this area. I am overwhelmed by the dearth of specifics provided on various mental health sites. Most sites have a button saying “Get Involved” and basically ask for a donation. How do I get my view to policy-makers? Should I just write my president and representatives so I can get a nice reply letter saying thank you, but this is a complex process and blah, blah, blah.
How do you change the world?