Pubdate: Mon, 04 Dec 2000
Date: 12/04/2000
Source: Wall Street Journal (US)
Author: David L. Rosenbloom

There are important lessons in your report on Marc Weill's cocaine
problem (Money & Investing, Nov. 22). He has a treatable brain
disease. If he stays in treatment long enough, keeps a job and has the
support of family and friends, he should do well. Relapse is possible
and should be followed by more treatment, just as if he had diabetes
or asthma. That is the way it ought to be for everyone with drug and
alcohol disease.

Unfortunately, Mr. Weill is the exception. People with his problem who
work at lower levels or in smaller companies can't get treatment
because most private health plans still discriminate against alcohol
and drug disease. When they mess up at work, they are fired and wind
up in the overburdened public treatment system. There should be equal
insurance coverage for all diseases, including mental, alcohol and
drug diseases. For example, all federal employees and dependents will
have this equal coverage starting Jan. 1, 2001.

Worse still, if Mr. Weill bought his cocaine on the street, he could
have been arrested and sent to prison for a very long time. It is
unfair, ineffective and expensive to send some people to jail and
others to treatment for exactly the same problem. Mr. Weill is being
handled the right way. We should stop sending non-violent people with
drug or alcohol disease to prison when it would be cheaper and more
effective to send them to treatment and help them get jobs.

David L. Rosenbloom, Director, Join Together, Boston University School
of Public Health, Boston