Letters to the Editor

All of us can help fight drug addiction

To the Editor:

With interest, I read the article “Combating the Opioid Crisis” with interest in the February 22 issue of The Sylva Herald. In the article it was stated that an opioid settlement supplemental agreement awarded Jackson County $3 million to combat opioid use on the local level. 

When I was 18, I worked with Jackson County EMS before leaving to embark on an almost 35-year career in law enforcement. For the past three years, I have worked as needed in a local funeral home. I have seen my share of people addicted to drugs and alcohol. I have seen the effects on the person suffering addiction as well as the effects on the addict’s family and friends.

I have heard people say, if an adult chooses to use drugs, then they should face the consequences. While I agree with this, I also realize that people should have help to combat their addiction. What leads one to use drugs? Peer pressure, mental illness, unemployment, homelessness, abuse as a child or just bad judgement may have led a person to drug use. More likely a combination of these issues has led to addiction. Regardless of why one uses drugs, as a predominantly Christian society we must show compassion and be willing to make sacrifices of our time and possibly finances to combat this issue. As the Bible says in 1 Thessalonians 5:11, we are to edify each other. In other words, we are to build up rather than tear down each other. Even an addict!

Drugs are rapidly entering our country, and yes this must be addressed and stopped. Regardless of how the drugs got here, they are here. We are losing a generation to drug use. As long as there is an addict there will be someone provide them drugs. The drug problem is like “Toothpaste out of a tube,” you can’t get it back in. We must be willing to combat the complex problem. There are no simple solutions and certainly isn’t a “one size fits all” approach.

From reading the article, it appears the Jackson County Sheriff’s Department will begin a MAT (medically assisted treatment) program for inmates currently in the jail. This is very positive and something that has worked in other areas. From reading the article it appears Commission Chairman Mark Letson has a good grasp of the complexities of the issue. I believe our commissioners as well as the sheriff will eventually have the MAT program up and running, benefiting those in our county jail.

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I will always support law enforcement and I have, not always in jest, encouraged many officers to work harder and make more arrests. However, I realize this isn’t a problem you can arrest your way out of. Simply put, the more arrests lead to more people in jail. More people in jail leads to staffing problems for the jail (officers, nurses, transportation, food services etc.) as well as a judicial system that is way overstressed (from the lack of judges, clerks, prosecutors and defenders). With that in mind, it is time to no longer sweep the problem under the carpet but to make a commitment to find alternatives to combat addiction. Truthfully the sheriff could use 20 more employees but, in this day and time-finding two is difficult. I am sure that can be said for the entire criminal justice system.

It is time to look at the drug issue as not just a criminal justice problem but a society problem. Drug abuse affects not only the healthcare system but even our elementary schools who deal with children whose parents suffer from addiction.

We have few treatment options. Many parents and grandparents have given most of their life savings to seek out-of-state treatment for their children or grandchildren. Many leave jail with the hope of quickly entering rehab, only for nothing to be available. This is a particularly vulnerable time as the addict often seeks that one last high before entering rehab. I encourage our commissioners to work with our state representatives to bring rehab facilities to the area. Our representatives must work to reinstate monies taken in the past from mental health treatment in our state. I would encourage our jail to implement some type of program that would involve inmates receiving peer support from those who have suffered addiction in the past but have been clean for several years.

We need more rehab facilities. We especially need facilities that aren’t profit-driven, but treatment driven.

Many get their news from Facebook and the rumor mill, believing a rehab facility in our area will cause an influx of addicts and street people being bused into our area. First, there is no proof of this, only rumors and baseless conspiracy theories. Second, the two major roads to the western end of the state run through Jackson County, so people will come and occasionally stay; such is life in America, where we are free to travel where we want. Last, from personal experience I have seen numerous people die from drug overdoses in the past three years and except for a handful at the casino, all were Jackson County residents.

We must help the addict. We need to help the families that have been literally torn apart by addiction. Parents shouldn’t lose their children, and young kids shouldn’t lose their parents. We have a problem and as a society we must do something! We can longer stand by as we lose a generation because of drugs.

W. Kent Davis


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