War on Drugs? What's Illinois Smoking? - NBC Chicago

War on Drugs? What's Illinois Smoking?

Study shows states spend more money on punishment than treatment, prevention



    War on Drugs? What's Illinois Smoking?
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    It doesn't take a lot of sniffing around to smoke out where the money needs to go to combat the country's drug problem.

    We have failed the war on drugs. At least, that's what Mayor Richard Daley says.  And he's right. But that war isn't just on the streets, it's in our system.

    The government claims to want to treat substance abuse problem, but offers few services to actually treat the addict. Instead, addicts are thrown behind bars as if that alone can help. And it does. It helps prisons.

    Drugs mean big money for Illinois.

    This past year, of the $4.8 billion of state dollars allotted for substance abuse and addiction issues, 96% of it went right back into stateside facilities and programs. Prisons and health care were the main benefactors according to a recent report from the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia.

    We secure funding at prisons before we secure our communities and culture from addiction.

    "The system isn't set up to help the addict -- it's set up to hold the addict," says a Chicagoland substance abuse counselor, who could only speak anonomously.

    That seems evident. Just sniff out the money.

    Only 4% of the budget was designated to treatment and prevention. These are the cornerstones of change. It's necessary for communities to be educated about prevention and healthy habits. It's essential we help addicts get off the streets, out of the prisons, and become positive members of society.

    Reports show treatment drastically reduces the recidivism rate for parolees, and our lawmakers are privy to this information.

    So where is the abundance of stateside treatment programs to stop this cycle? Even the Illinois Alcoholism and Drug Dependence Association confirms more funding for treatment would save money and lives. So, why are those dollars not reallocated to ensure progress?

    Halfway houses, detox and rehabilitation facilities, and treatment programs require additional state funding. If we're going to win this war on drugs, we need to get personal.

    Unless, of course, that's simply not Illinois' business model.

    Laura Baron is an NBC 5 contributor, a lifestyle consultant and a relationship expert. Learn more about her at www.asklaurabaron.com.