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Tuesday, August 30, 2011

The Heavy Cost of Addiction

Let's face the facts, shall we? The current model implemented for dealing with chronic street alcoholics and drug addicts has been hardly effective by any means. It doesn't matter what city or state you live in, the problem is the same wherever you go. A homeless alcoholic gets arrested, needs medical attention, goes to jail, and then released only to start the cycle over again. Absolutely nothing is gained, but, there has definitely been a loss, a financial one. In Flagstaff, Arizona it was calculated that the cost of cycling just five hardcore street alcoholics a day for an entire year through the "system": the emergency room, jail, court, detox center and back on the streets costs about $2 million. Multiply that number by the actual number of hardcore offenders and you will come up with a staggering number.

What's the solution? Unfortunately, it's not that simple but an idea was put forward in an editorial in the Flagstaff Daily Sun, their idea was to provide housing for the chronic offenders as well as skill training where they can learn how to become an active member of society once again. People living on the street are not lost, there is still hope for them they just need to be given a chance; believe it or not giving them a chance is a lot more cost effective and better for the community then a revolving door that so many alcoholics have come to know quite well.

Clearly, all of that is easier said than done, but we need to start somewhere, our current model simply does not work - it never has and never will. Communities need to reevaluate how many people are living on their streets and think about how they can get those people off the streets without a jail cell or an E.R.

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