Reducing the Stigma of Drug Abuse to Achieve Great Results

Commentary by Chandler City Councilmember Terry Roe

RoeIn the 1980’s and early 1990’s, Nancy Reagan worked with the American people to fight drug abuse with a campaign slogan of “Just Say No.” During this time, I was busy working in law enforcement on hundreds of investigations that often had one thing in common, drug or alcohol misuse. While reviewing report after report, it also became clear that the abuse of drugs or alcohol not only impacted individuals, but it also hurt their families and the community as a whole.

Fast-forward to 2017 and it is clear that the challenge of dealing with drug misuse continues. In many cases, individuals become addicted to painkillers after sustaining an injury, recovering from surgery or enduring chronic pain. Many well-intentioned physicians prescribe potent drugs to help patients with pain management. These drugs are fairly expensive. Often, when patients are no longer able to obtain legal prescriptions, they turn to heroin or other illegal drugs. Unfortunately, anyone can fall into a cycle of dependence, ranging from young athletes with injuries, to victims of car accidents or senior residents with chronic pain.

We cannot deny that across the country, communities are facing a threatening opioid epidemic. Good people of all ages, from all walks of life are becoming addicted and dying from prescription drug and heroin abuse. The challenge we face is real, but we must continue to look for solutions that aren’t necessarily punitive. There is too much at stake. We simply must do our part.

The Chandler Police Department, led by Chief Sean Duggan, is well aware of the need to prevent and treat individuals affected by substance abuse. Each police substation is equipped with a prescription drug drop-off box intended for anyone to dispose of unneeded medications. This service is entirely anonymous and is available 24/7 at the main police station located at 250 E. Chicago Street. Keeping medications out of the reach of children or anyone susceptible to addiction is critical to the success of prevention efforts.

With the understanding that we can’t incarcerate our way to a solution, the Chandler Police Department is creating new training for all officers to help reduce the stigma of addiction and respond to the needs of individuals affected by substance abuse. The Department is also exploring issuing first responders with medication to be administered to people overdosing on opioids.

One group, the Chandler Coalition on Youth Substance Abuse (CCYSA) Task Force, plays an important role in getting the message out to as many people as possible. The group’s mission includes developing and implementing a strategic plan for addressing opioid abuse locally and regionally. In order to educate, inform and succeed, they work closely with many community stakeholders, including doctors, pharmacists, school and church administrators, non-profits and our business community.

Drug abuse is a serious issue that affects every community and family in some way. I urge you to protect yourself and your loved ones from this epidemic. Please take the first step and properly dispose of your unused narcotic drugs at any one of Chandler’s three police facilities.

For more details about initiatives by the Chandler Police Department and CCYSA, visit chandlerpd.com or ccysachandler.org