“Education of the public, cooperation of all the organizations both government, private and public and bringing them together to work as a partnership. “
– Chief Deputy, Michael Gauger, of the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office
On Tuesday, December 1st, Ashlee and I attended the 4th Annual Palm Beach County Drug Abuse Summit held at the Max Planck Institute for Neuroscience in Jupiter, Florida.
Entitled “Society’s Stigma: Addiction & Mental Illness,” the event had three separate consecutive panels, comprised of individuals from private foundations to Dave Aronbgerg, the State Attorney of Palm Beach County; a representative from the School District of Palm Beach County; Carey Haughwout, the Public Defender of Palm Beach County; the Executive Director of the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) for Palm Beach County; and many other VIPs.
I was pleasantly surprised to hear the what I believed to be the collective agreement that mental illness and Substance Use Disorder need no longer be stigmatized and criminalized. Our jails are overflowing with people whose only crime is drug possession and use, but there was also recognition that the jail system via PBSO is likely the largest provider of necessary mental health services in the County.
What wasn’t discussed was how local governments continue to fight against the placement of treatment providers within their municipalities. I kept trying to get that question discussed, without success.
Most recently, both the City of Boynton Beach and the Town of Mangonia Park rejected applications by very credible detoxification providers to open within their areas under the premise they didn’t want “those dangerous people” in their cities. Shameful. Disgraceful. Discriminatory. Irresponsible political pandering
And not surprisingly, not a single one of those elected officials (to my knowledge) attended this Summit.
What was also a not-so-surprising consensus was that “those sober houses” needed to be addressed. I was personally shocked when the Executive Director of The Lord’s Place said that we needed to put “housing first” before treatment, but then said the only way to stop sober homes from infiltrating neighborhoods was to change the Americans With Disabilities Act. To a rancorous applause and approval.
Oh, how far we have come, and yet how far we still need to go, to fully educate the public, obtain the cooperation of all the organizations of government, private and public groups, and to bring them altogether to work as a partnership in understanding that treatment may begin healing our community at the acute stage, but longer term housing is where the recovery from addiction occurs.