Recovery vs. Permanency?

By Mitchell, David B. | Children's Voice, September/October 2004 | Go to article overview

Recovery vs. Permanency?


Mitchell, David B., Children's Voice


September is National Alcohol and Drug Addiction Recovery Month. For more information, visit the Recovery Month website at www.recoverymonth.gov, or contact the Center for Substance Abuse Treatment, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, at 800/729-6686 or 301/443-5052.

In its struggle with children and adults abusing alcohol and other drugs, it has become only too clear the United States can never prevail through the single strategy of arresting law violators.

Without question, aggressive enforcement of laws regulating both legal and illegal substances is an important component in the war on drugs. Law enforcement agencies regularly release impressive numbers of those arrested and convicted for using drugs, as well as the crimes linked to substance abuse. Our penal institutions and detention centers were bursting at the seams in the last decades of the 20th Century, due in large measure to aggressive law enforcement tactics to clear corners, clean schools, and rid our neighborhoods of drugs.

Those ever-increasing statistics, however, do not convey the desperation and destruction of the lives of so many of our citizens, directly and indirectly related to the abuse of alcohol and other drugs. Drugs are a destabilizing force that affects every neighborhood in America. We all experience the impact of substance abuse; each of us should play a part in resolving the problem.

My life as a lawyer, judge, active participant in national and local judicial affairs, and now administrator of a national judicial organization has reinforced my belief that effective treatment represents the single most important strategy in America's battle with substance abuse. We cannot abandon interdiction, enforcement, and education as significant components of our total strategy, but America must double, triple, and even quadruple the resources dedicated to treating those addicted to these substances if we ever hope to declare victory.

The social agencies that form this nation's safety net must underscore the importance of treatment for substance abusers. By treatment, I mean forms of intervention that should be accessible to the abuser on demand when he or she hits bottom, and on command for those whom the courts determine need forceful action without options.

The nation must also be smarter in marshalling its resources. In my 18 years as a judge in Baltimore, I presided as the administrative judge over both the juvenile and criminal divisions. It was my responsibility to coordinate the function of the court with other aspects of the social safety system for the betterment of the community. Baltimore, like many communities in America, is resource challenged as it grapples with spiraling drug abuse and the resulting crime and child abuse and neglect. …

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