EDITORIAL | Chemical dependency service is critical

Drug addiction is one of the great wrecking balls of the world. With devastating effect, it tears apart families, smashes its way through communities and reduces lives to utter ruin.

Yet despite its destruction, the wrecking ball may soon swing a bit more freely on Whidbey. Island County has been identified as one of several in Washington that may lose their chemical dependency treatment centers due to funding issues.

Sea Mar, the county’s service provider, is struggling to make ends meet due to consequences of the Affordable Care Act. It’s resulted in most patients being on Medicaid, which pays less than private insurers. Sea Mar is now carrying its program in Island County with profits from programs in other larger, urban areas.

At a time when police are tying burglaries to addicts, and heroin use is spurring the creation of groups such as the Island County Substance Abuse Coalition, this news couldn’t be worse.

Like veterans of war, those whose lives have been directly touched by drug addiction are perhaps the only ones who can truly appreciate just how devastating the problem is. To the sober and rational mind, the inability to simply walk away, to choose loved ones over the next fix, is simply incomprehensible.

But such is the nature of drug addiction. It’s a horror, an irrational and merciless killer.

Like a runaway train, prescription drug overdoses in the United States have risen steadily over the past two decades and is now the leading cause of injury death, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The organization reports that 113 people die as a result of drug overdose every day in the U.S., and another 6,748 are treated in emergency departments.

Last year, the agency reported that drug overdoses had increased for the 11th consecutive year, and that 38,329 people died from overdoses in 2010, an increase from the 37,004 deaths the year before. By comparison, 1999 saw just 16,849 deaths.

While dated, such statistics make clear that drugs are a real and lethal problem. County leaders are well aware of this and are partnering with other counties to address the financial issues facing Sea Mar. Several solutions are under consideration, and a request for state assistance has been forwarded to legislators.

Let us hope they find a workable solution, as the services Sea Mar provides are critical. The chemical dependency agency works closely with the county’s drug court system to provide drug and alcohol assessments, intensive outpatient treatment for addicts, relapse prevention, offender monitoring and assists with deferred prosecution if they seek treatment.

It’s also often the first stop and introduction to 12-step programs, such as Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous, which have helped millions of people around the world to lasting recovery.


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