Robin Shellow Attorney | Veterans and Israel and Addiction
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Veterans and Israel and Addiction

Veterans and Israel and Addiction


The Heroin Holocaust: Treatment Alternatives to Incarceration—Drug Courts

Almost is not a word used by the medical examiner.

Top 1% Accountability Act of 2016 will generate enough money for real treatment for all citizens—maybe. While the initial import of the proposed bill may have been to garner attention in the media, genuine potential for meaningful change lies beneath the fiery rhetoric of Congresswoman Gwen Moore’s proposal. What’s good for the goose may prove to be truly good for the gander.

For those unfortunate citizens who find themselves trapped at the intersection of the criminal justice system and addiction, Drug Courts offer scant protection against the forces arrayed against them. Whether insured or uninsured, your average citizen cannot afford the high cost of individualized drug treatment. In fact, large counties like Marathon County are too financially strapped to have a drug court—despite 8 near fatal heroin overdoses in one week.

In her bill, Congresswoman Gwen Moore from Milwaukee has proposed the thoroughly reasonable scenario whereby households whose itemized deductions top $150,000 must submit a clean drug test to the IRS, or take a dramatically lower standard deduction. Write your congressional representative and let them know that you support Congresswoman Moore’s plan. Help end the stigmatization and continued criminalization of drug addiction.

The Israeli army–after patching up soldier after soldier realized they had created opiate addicts—said this is about us. We create addicts out of our veterans, so now it is our responsibility to help veterans—often through methods such as rapid detoxification–become drug free. To protect those who so selflessly protect us.

But somehow in Wisconsin and America at large, we still cling to cultural notions of rugged individualism and an “up by your bootstraps” ethos and believe overcoming the toxic impact of addiction is about will-power. A whole lot of people, from judges to presidential candidates on both sides, have got it wrong. While it may test well in a focus group, or sound nice on a stump speech, one cannot even begin to address a problem as nuanced and pervasive as drug addiction with time-worn adages and pithy one-liners. Demonizing addicts is still the mantra of all in power and who desire power.  It is all about grit, pulling yourself up by your own boot-straps and false HOPE.

The Heroin, Opiate Prevention and Education Laws were a great step forward, as is recent legislation aimed at increasing access to the counter-overdose drug naloxone. Another aspect of the HOPE laws now require that all licensed providers check the State’s Prescription Drug Monitoring Program before prescribing opioids to patients. This is critically important, because it will facilitate better communication between providers and prevent patients from “doctor shopping” for medications. While these are all important aspects of the issue, one thing has noticeably been missing from the discussion — the need for America’s medical system to shift its emphasis away from opioid pain treatments in the first place. Unfortunately, some of the best long-term solutions — like physical therapy and behavior modification — take time to deliver results. In the immediate gratification culture of American society, we’ve become overly reliant on the quick fix provided by opioids. Medical providers must challenge their patients by counseling them on the dangers and limitations of opioids and advocating for long-term solutions through interventional procedures and lifestyle changes. (The Sheboygan Press, November 22, 2015)

Perhaps, I should re-name my law firm Interventional Procedures and Lifestyle Changes or The HOPE Group. Life-style changes are the code words used by both Republican and Democrat politicians who, while they might not have a lot in common economically with most voters, are discovering points of empathy with a wide cross section of the electorate when it comes to addiction . Love the addict hate the disease. Forget what divides us.

Since we printed a four-part series we were bested by another Wisconsin headline concerning opiate addiction and overdoses, this time out of Eau Claire: Deaths Overwhelm Medical Examiner. Below are links to each part in the series covering an issue which has reached epidemic proportions.

If addiction has you on the brink of losing your professional license, your job, your election or your liberty, I am a lawyer who cares. I am proud to say I have represented 79 supersized addicts who have not re-offended. Only 4 have re-offended. Treatment and learning how to be a law-abiding, recovering addict requires huge amounts of time and expensive treatment—though vastly less expensive than the real cost of prisons. Sadly, this week I almost lost one to the medical examiner.

Almost can be a very terrifying word.

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