Lock-up vs. Treatment

Sue Judd, M.S.S., L.S.A.C.

Opinions @ the Spectrum
June 10, 2009

Dear Editor:

Lock-up vs. Treatment.   As a Master’s Level Licensed Substance Abuse Counselor with over 20 years experience in the addictions field, I am concerned with the debate that seems to be arising about treatment vs. incarceration.  The value of treatment and the significance of internal belief changes incurring as a result of value based treatment are being overlooked for the quicker, easier dismissal of the alcoholic/addict.  There tends to be more a need for  visible, visual marker that shows me that the offender/addict is being punished and suffering rather than being rehabilitated.  Granted there are some “counselors” that are out there offering cut-rate, quick fix solutions which not only perpetuate the problem but over time truly victimizes the addict, the family and society even more.  This is due to the fact that the quick fix program does not offer solutions but enables the user to the opposite extreme of the punishment of incarceration. Internal change comes from changing the way I see myself enough to change my belief about myself.  By embracing incarceration as the sole model for those who relapse, we are only offering them the one paradigm which they continue to perpetuate the rest of their lives.  And then we wonder why they become institutionalized.  Recently, I was discussing a case with a person in a position of authority who told me treatment was too expensive and a bigger drain on the family than that person sitting in jail six months.  I propose the client sitting in jail incurring a rate of $45 a day charge, is going to cost the family more money in the long run.  Six months of jail will cost this person approximately $8, 212.50 in comparison to the $2500 for Intensive Outpatient treatment.  That is not to mention the costs incurred by family members to visit their loved one and the loss of income they may have been providing.  Also it does not address the emotional cost on children and family members and the message that it sends these children that this is the life you are going to inherit.  As a counselor, I know treatment can break this cycle, educate families and loved ones and offer hope to both the addict and the families opposite extreme of incarceration.  In summary, I know from experience that effective treatment works and can and does break the addiction cycle.  Unlike our neighboring states of Nevada and Montana which subsidize treatment, we still maintain a penal mentality.  Interestingly, however, the state of Utah subsidizes domestic violence treatment and yet the offender has to pay for substance abuse treatment which may exacerbate the domestic violence issues. There is also a victim reparations fund to help victims of domestic violence, however, none for the substance abuser.
The underlying issues are not treated and we actually create dependence and may “institutionalize” them. 

For more info: http://TurningLeafWellnessCenter.com

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