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Opinion: Better heroin treatment needed in jails

Jim Beiting is chief executive officer of Transitions Inc., a drug and alcohol treatment organization based in Bellevue, Kentucky.

We applaud the outstanding reporting by Dan Horn and Terry DeMio about the shocking lack of treatment for heroin addicts in our jails, (“Heroin is bad, We’re making it worse” June 28). Their compelling reporting underlined the need to make more treatment available for heroin addicts who are locked up.

We call on local and state government officials, including the courts, to support the efforts of corrections officials who are trying to provide better treatment. That means additional funding as well as approval to provide medication-assisted treatment, an approach that slowly weans addicts off heroin.

Without treatment, imprisonment does nothing to stop the devastating effects of such a powerful drug. “Addicts want heroin more than anything else,” as Horn and DeMio put it, “more than their jobs, their homes, their health or even their children.” More than 13,000 heroin users spent time last year in Greater Cincinnati jails – more than the populations of many of our cities and villages.

Sure, we can blame the addicts. Indeed, much of the responsibility for their addiction can be placed on their shoulders. But if we do not provide them with treatment, they are likely to return to jail or die. The first scenario – imprisonment – is expensive for all of us. The second – death – is inhumane for a society that presumably cares about its neighbors. More than 300 people died last year in Greater Cincinnati from heroin use.

At Transitions, we are prepared to expand our efforts to solve this challenging problem. Yes, just like other drug and alcohol treatment programs as well as the criminal justice system, we have limited resources. We have stretched our capacity to provide residential treatment to heroin users, including many who cannot afford to pay. But when an addict comes to us for help, we will find a way to provide a bed. And as the new leader of Transitions, I pledge that we will take our efforts to a higher level to seek more funding, whether that’s from individuals, foundations or government.

Our mission is to help individuals, families, and communities break the cycles of substance abuse, family abuse, violence, crime and poverty. And that’s what we intend to do in an even more impactful way with the help of our dedicated employees and volunteers and the support of our community.

The situation is not hopeless. As a licensed independent chemical dependency counselor, I know we can prevail over heroin. Modern treatment approaches for addiction are effective. By treating one person at a time, we can succeed.

http://www.cincinnati.com/

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