Editorial: Battling opioid addiction takes innovative approaches

Drug court is a perfect example of how government should take a creative, multifaceted approach to dealing with drug and alcohol abuse in the community.

The addiction problem isn’t going away, at least not anytime soon. The opioid epidemic has shown us that anyone, regardless of income or background, can fall victim to addiction and that solutions are not easy to come by.

People in law enforcement and in social services are fond of saying that government can’t arrest its way out of the problem. But in the case of drug court, help begins with an arrest. Some people who committed drug-related offenses are eligible for the program, which trades lesser or reduced jail time for good behavior.

The idea is that early, continuous, intense and well-supervised treatment can reduce recidivism rates and, ultimately, save lives.

Island County law-and-justice officials have been running adult and juvenile drug courts for years and have had success, individual by individual. Whidbey resident Conrad Standinger is the latest success story, having graduated last week from drug court. While he admits it wasn’t an easy process — and involved setbacks — those who know him say the change in him is remarkable.

The county also has an innovative program that puts together a public health nurse, a deputy and a social worker in the field to help people who are addicted to opioids.

Like drug court, the Island County jail started a program to offer medication-assisted treatment to people who suffer from opioid addiction. It may not be the answer for everyone, but it’s a tool in the fight against the problem.

One problem officials haven’t solved yet is the lack of drug and alcohol treatment on the island, which means those in treatment have to travel off the island. The drug court even provides participants with monetary assistance to help with traveling costs.

It’s a significant problem that officials need to focus on. After all, these other programs would be pointless if people can’t make it to treatment.

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