An article I stumbled upon today, that was released in July, discusses how public schools in Akron, Ohio (suburb of Cleveland) are now going to begin stocking up on Narcan, the drug used to adverse the effects of an overdose (Hawkins, The Washington Post).
Before getting into this article, I want to give a background on the opioid crisis in case you aren’t aware of what’s currently happening to our society. Being from Indiana, I have seen, first-handedly, the epidemic of drug abuse. I have lived about 20 minutes from a larger city where the drug epidemic and overdoses have worsened ten-fold. In the past couple of years, the city began cracking down on doctors who were over-prescribing patients for opioids. These “patients” receiving the scripts were obviously feeding their addiction. When they received more than what they needed, they would then sell the extras to other users to fuel their addictions. Since the arrest of multiple doctors, addicts in this city are now struggling to find their opioids, like Oxycodone and Hydrocodone. Now, they’re turning to street drugs like heroin, giving them similar effects of the prescription pills they used to take.
Yesterday, President Trump officially declared the opioid crisis in the United States as a national emergency. According to one article, “approximately 142 Americans [are] dying every day” from overdoses, which makes the “death toll equal to September 11th every three weeks” (Lopez, Vox). These statistics are unfathomable.
So, back to the article I was talking about in the beginning of this post. The Akron Board of Education recently voted 5-1 to equip every resource officer in every public school within the district with Narcan. The same article discusses how in Middletown, Ohio, in June, it is costing their community “more than $1,100 to dispatch paramedics to administer a dose of Narcan to an overdose victim.” The budget that the city had set to spend on Narcan this year was $10,000, but they are now “reportedly on track to spend $100,000” (Hawkins, The Washington Post).
After doing some research, I discovered that in Middletown, Ohio, there are 29 homeless shelters (Suntopia). In this same town, of its 48,563 citizens, 24.9% live below the poverty line. With these statistics in mind, I would like to know WHY the city is spending upwards of $100,000 this year on people who are willingly shooting themselves up with a drug and then overdosing. Wouldn’t this money be better spent on the almost 25% of the town’s citizens who are struggling to feed themselves and their families everyday? Not to mention, 15.5% of the citizens in Middletown are Veterans (Data USA).
I discovered that, on average, it costs $1.60 for a hot meal in a homeless shelter (Feed the Homeless Project, Inc). Now time for some math. Let’s take the $100,000 we discussed, divide that by the cost of the meal, and we come up with 62,500 meals. Divide this by 365 days in a year, which is rounded down to 171. Divide that number by 3 for breakfast, lunch, and dinner and you get 57 meals. To sum all of this up:
The $100,000 spent on Narcan alone this year in Middletown, Ohio, could feed 57 homeless people breakfast, lunch, and dinner every day for an entire year.
In my opinion, if you’re administering Narcan to an individual who is overdosing you are enabling their addiction. Think about it, they give these people Narcan to save their lives and after that addict’s brief jail or sober living stint, whichever the police and courts decide to do with them, they are back out on the street, shooting up and fueling their addictions. You can guess what happens next; they overdose once again and get saved once again. All the while, using up the resources we have that could be used for more beneficial things for the community. It is a never-ending cycle, a constant broken-record, and it needs to be nipped in the bud the correct and most effective way.
Now you ask, how do we fix this? Well, the first solution that everybody always comes up with is incarcerate them. Having a Criminal Justice degree allows me to be credible enough to explain that we cannot send addicts to jail. I have written countless papers on recidivism rates within community corrections and prisons and incarcerating addicts does not work. Granted, if they are harming themselves or other people around them (physically, criminally) then yes, send them to jail. But, jailing people who have the mental disease of addiction is going to do nothing but make them criminally-sound. Once they’re released, they recommit the same crimes, or their criminal behavior heightens with more serious crimes, because it’s what they learned to enable them to survive while incarcerated among other addicts, murderers, rapists, robbers, etc. Also, the public would be surprised to learn how little of rehabilitation programs exist in jails. While there are the exceptions to this, many smaller community corrections do not have the resources to make this happen. So this person is sitting in a cell, withdrawing hard, and all they can think about is how they can’t wait to get out to get their next fix.
This entire scenario can explain why President Nixon’s 1970s declaration of a “War on Drugs” has never been effective. We can obviously see that it has worsened, almost 50 years later, and our prison population has increased by 500 percent during this time (Carroll, Politifact). According to a 2015 speech by Hillary Clinton at Columbia University, “five percent of the world’s population lives in the United States,” yet it houses “25 percent of the world’s prison population” (Ye Hee Lee, The Washington Post). Does it sound like the “War on Drugs” is working? I think not.
A city like Middletown, Ohio, is only one example of thousands of American cities in need of rehabilitation centers for their addicts. There are no other viable solutions. While I am not financially aware of the budgets and what it takes to make this happen, I do know that using that $100,000 you’re spending this year on Narcan is definitely a start. Send these addicts to a publicly-funded rehabilitation clinic where they can be monitored for withdrawals and go through a necessary program that will rehabilitate them and rid their minds of the addiction that they are facing. Then, maybe, we won’t have such an overdose crisis that is threatening the lives of our society, citizens and youth.