Pubdate: Fri, 20 Aug 2004
Source: Messenger-Inquirer (KY)
Copyright: 2004 Messenger-Inquirer
Author: J.D. Meyer
Bookmark: (Treatment)


The Daviess County Detention Center's GOALS -- Goebel Offenders' Addiction
Life Solutions -- substance abuse program, should not only improve the lives
of 17 inmates, but it will help their families and the community as well.

Jailer David Osborne stated that of the 640 inmates in jail, 70 to 75
percent are serving time for a substance abuse-related offense. Magistrate
Judge E. Robert Goebel aptly pointed out that substance abuse cases are not
solely criminal matters. Such cases also consume the civil docket, as people
who utilize all their funds to feed their habit fail to pay their rent,
their house payments and their bills. A simple scan of the
Messenger-Inquirer's weekly court records reveals a vast number of criminal
sentences and pleas relating to drug or alcohol use.

Many good people succumb to the seductive nature of drugs and alcohol. I
have been blessed never to have witnessed firsthand the powers this habit
maintains over a person. However, as an attorney and a member of this
community, I have seen the problems associated with substance abuse.

Substance abuse does not only affect the individual user. Mothers and
fathers miss their child's birthday while serving jail time. Children live
in deplorable conditions as their parents spend their money on drugs or
alcohol. Grandparents raise their grandchildren as parents relinquish
custody because their addiction trumps their children's needs. Children
steal from parents to feed their habit. People steal from businesses and
individuals through robbery or by writing cold checks. Employees sustain
injuries on the job as concentration levels are low from a night of drinking
or using drugs. Jails are overcrowded and, as seen recently in Daviess
County, pose a drain on government's financial resources. And substance
abusers endanger innocent people.

How often do we pick up the paper to read of an individual charged with
second or third offense DUI following an automobile accident that severely
injured or killed an innocent person? How often do we read domestic violence
stories where a person is charged with a drug-related crime? These are not
stories from larger cities on the east or west coast -- they are in our

The substance abuser's plea for help is frequently ignored. We have failed
to focus attention on treatment under the belief that self-help and sheer
will power would enable the addict to overcome the problem. Some simply
thought nothing could be done and focused on prevention.

But our notions toward substance abuse slowly have shifted from viewing this
as an individual problem to a treatable disease. Science and medicine have
proven the chemical aspect of addiction. As with all diseases, an addict
needs treatment.

The GOALS program is an important component to addressing substance abuse.
Previously, courts possessed little opportunity to truly help those with an
addiction. I watched one day as a prisoner begged a judge to find him help
with a rehabilitation center or alternative form of treatment. Jail time was
his only option. Jail allows someone to sober up, but fails to teach an
individual how to overcome his or her addiction and become a productive

One of the GOALS participants who spoke during last week's open house talked
about incarceration's revolving door for substance abusers. He has been in
and out of jail since he was a teenager. His convictions all stemmed from
drug-related offenses. He said he always came out promising himself and his
family he would not return. But he found himself back in with the same crowd
of "friends." Eventually, his addiction dragged him back to jail for an
extended stay. He knew if he did not seek help that he would be right back
in jail even after serving his nine-year sentence.

GOALS will provide him, and many others like him, an opportunity to receive
treatment. Taxpayers sacrificed our dollars to pay for this program.
However, this is an investment well spent. The revolving door will close,
and in the long run we will save and actually gain.

Substance abuse treatment does not start and stop with this project. The
Boulware Center Mission, OASIS, Lighthouse Recovery, Drug Court, Owensboro
Medical Health System, local school systems and governments, businesses and
many others are important pieces of the puzzle who must work together.
Community Solutions for Substance Abuse is the driving force behind
collaborative efforts to develop a comprehensive strategic plan to address
drug and alcohol addiction, and Osborne recognized the vital role the agency
played in bringing GOALS to life.

The community's job is not yet done. Most treatment programs are full, and
expanded or additional services are needed. Owensboro-Daviess County lacks a
juvenile treatment program. GOALS needs to expand to include women. This is
the greatest crisis facing our community, but together and unified, we can
improve our community and treat the disease of substance abuse.

J.D. Meyer is an Owensboro attorney. 
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