Spend taxes to rehabilitate, not enable addicts
A debate that has been stirring in the Triad since the late ’90s has again been fanned into flame. The General Assembly of North Carolina has put forth House Bill 411, a bill that will allow three counties in the state of North Carolina to legally distribute clean needles and syringes to drug addicts. Guilford County is considering inclusion in the program.
The purpose behind the program, co-sponsored by Guilford County Democratic Reps. Alma Adams, Maggie Jeffus and Earl Jones, is to help prevent the spread of HIV. The effort even holds favor with Sheriff BJ Barnes, and understandably so, as our law enforcement and rescue personnel put themselves at risk of catching AIDS on a daily basis.
The proposed bill would allow a selected local health department to hand out clean needles if letters of support are submitted by the county board of commissioners, the local district board of health, the local health director and the local director of mental health or substance abuse services. In Section 1a, the bill makes mandatory a minimum of case management, outreach, transportation services and referrals for housing and medical care. The local board of health may also adopt additional rules for the exchange program not defined in the bill.
However, several issues should be carefully considered before engaging in this type of program:
According to statistics found in the May 17 story ‘“Drug Users Could Swap’” in the News and Record there are approximately 5,981 current drug users that use injection as a means to get high. How many more will flock to the Triad when it’s found that Guilford County is a safe haven for drug users? Is that the type of community in which we wish to raise our children?
Is it not fair to use the tax monies of citizens who strive to obey the law to support those with illegal habits. The sale of needles over the counter is legal and available in most pharmacies. If addicts can pay for the drugs, let them pay for the needles and contribute to the rest of the community with their own tax monies.
While the use of marijuana has been found to ease the pain of some chronic patients it is still denied for use as a medicine for these people. Yet providing needles to users of heroin merely encourages a deadly habit for those who don’t need this drug for medical purposes.
Lastly, the proposed bill does not make it mandatory for distributors of needles to offer any kind of rehabilitation. Therefore, handing out needles is merely a cure for the symptom, not for the problem. If we are going to take on the responsibility of supplying heroin addicts with the correct paraphernalia to continue their addictions then let’s go whole hog here and do the right thing. Make it mandatory for those who get needles to attend a weekly group therapy meeting and enter into a rehabilitation program. If we’re going to spend $550,000 of our tax money anyway, then let’s do something proactive by helping addicts get off heroin, something that is not easy but certainly worthwhile. Instead of having more addicts coming to the Triad for free supplies and eventually increasing what it will take in tax dollars to support such a program, let’s invest more in the beginning and help these people turn their lives around. That way fewer tax dollars are needed in the future, costing the community less in the long run and helping addicts become contributing members of our community who may eventually add to the tax base.