Addiction to opioids is a major issue in Maine as it is in most states. More people die from addiction overdoses than they do in car accidents. One of the problems that have been identified that we are attempting to address is in the area of public education. Many people still do not understand that addiction is a disease, not a matter of character or moral weakness. As long as this attitude continues in our society it will continue to prevent people from seeking treatment and the epidemic will grow.
As we pointed out in the last post, one of the tools that we have developed to educate the public about the different struggles that we are facing is BounceBack, a serious game that asks participants to respond to challenge questions using the Skills and Attitudes of resilience. We’re going to present another challenge in this post. I would encourage you to talk with others about the challenge that is presented and to respond to the challenge by describing in some detail how you would deal with the challenge using the Skills and the Attitudes of resilience.
Here’s the challenge: our department started taking addicts in and helping them find rehabilitation and treatment programs. Arresting them sure doesn’t work. Boy, have we taken a lot of flak for it. Many say that it’s not the role of the police department. Shouldn’t we focus on what works?
To respond to this challenge, place yourself in the role of the police officer or chief of police, especially in a rural community where the problem of opioid addiction is even more severe. What are some of the skills that you would use in dealing with the community’s attitude about the policy of not arresting, but attempting to find a treatment program for the addict?
Here are some of the Skills and Attitudes we think would be helpful. It sounds like the department has been willing to be flexible in trying to solve the problem, rather than simply to punish individuals who are breaking the law. Having confidence in what you are doing is important. But you need to communicate with others, specifically with the public and the media, the rationale for what you are doing. You believe this will work better than simply putting people in jail.
Help the public to see the bigger picture. What we’ve been doing for many many years does not work very well. There will be problems with this new approach, but it is probably better than the old.
Manage the strong feelings you may have about the criticism you are receiving. Find ways to discharge and vent these feelings. Take care of yourself while you’re taking care of others.
In the next few weeks, we will be posting more challenges that individuals families and our society are facing in dealing with addiction.
Dr. Ron Breazeale