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Friday, October 29, 2010

The Jennifer Act

Jennifer Reynolds was a heroin addict who died at the age of 29. In 2002 her mother, Sharon Blair, after learning of her daughter's addiction began writing the Jennifer Act, a controversial bill which has procedures for the involuntary commitment of a person due to alcohol or drug abuse. Blair finished the bill shortly after her daughter's death Jan. 15, 2009. "Parents feel helpless when their kids are addicted to drugs," Blair said. "They are paralyzed by fear, and don't know what to do." Parents are often unable to convince or push their child to seek treatment and this new bill will give parents a tool to aid them in the process. "The Jennifer Act is a tool that can help parents provide their child with the help he or she needs," she said. "As things are now, there's nothing a parent can do unless the child breaks the law."

If the new bill gets approved and passed parents will have the ability to go to the courthouse and file a petition for the immediate commitment of their child into a drug treatment facility. These treatment facilities will be locked down so that those court-ordered addicts cannot just leave when they please, if they do, then local authorities will pick them up and bring them back to treatment. "If you have an elderly family member with dementia, you can obtain power of attorney over them because they can no longer make rational decisions," she said. "The Jennifer Act is similar, in the sense that it gives parents the power to make decisions about what is best for a child because the child is not in his or her right mind due to drug addiction."

The Jennifer Act would force the Department of Correction and county jails to provide treatment options to everyone with addictions; both faith-based treatment and secular treatment will be offered. The offenders would have their choice between faith-based treatment and secular treatment. "If offenders don't receive treatment for the root cause of their problem, we end up arresting and re-arresting them," Blair said. "Most of them never get a chance to get treatment outside the prison system, because they are too poor to pay for it. If we can successfully rehab them while they're in jail, we are not only saving their lives, but saving taxpayers a lot of money."

If the bill is passed it will certainly allow more addicts to see what treatment is about, but, an addict has to want sobriety for himself. Forcing adult children into treatment may cause addicts to stay as far away from their family as possible. Relapse rates will probably be higher than normal because if a person is not 100 percent committed to surrendering and following a path of recovery they will just jump through the hoops of treatment and use as soon as they are released after convincing the doctors that they are ready for society again. It will be interesting to see the results of the Jennifer Act, if it is put into action.

Herald-Times, Bloomington, Ind

Friday, October 22, 2010

Major Marijuana Operation Spanning 3 States and Involving 44 People

A major drug bust took place in three different states involving 44 people who were operating a major marijuana smuggling ring. People were arrested on Friday in drug raids throughout California, Florida, and New York. The co-founder of Jay Z's Roc-A-Fella Records, Kareem "Biggs" Burke, was one of the 44 people who were arrested last week. Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said, "With today's arrests, we have successfully shut down a major pipeline for marijuana distribution in New York City. This successful operation was the result of a dedicated and ongoing partnership among federal, state and local law enforcement and reaffirms our zero-tolerance policy for those who flout our drug laws".

Federal agents discovered a marijuana smuggling operation that conducted business for two decades during a two-year operation. Apparently the entire marijuana market in New York was cornered by this particular operation. The marijuana was grown in California and Florida and then shipped to New York where it was then sold on the streets according to CNN. The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement in New York, the Drug Enforcement Administration and the New York Police Department worked together with the city's Department of Investigation and Special Narcotics Prosecutor's office. Officials were able to obtain nearly $2 million and more than 360 pounds of marijuana.

The Associated Press reported that, a federal prosecutor announced that Burke was caught via wiretap discussing "grow houses" with the ring's leader. On top of Burke's arrest, who is potentially facing life imprisonment with a mandatory minimum of 10 years in prison, an employee of High Times magazine was also charged. There is no telling what this bust means for the citizens of the State of New York, more than likely the price of marijuana will rise and the quality will diminish, but, let's face it, shutting down this operation only opened up the market for some other criminal enterprise to step in.


Friday, October 15, 2010

Illinois Receives $13M to Expand Drug Treatment

The number of addicts and alcoholics in the United States is daunting; addiction plagues every family in one way or another despite the fact that more people than ever before have access to drug and alcohol treatment - yet, that is still not enough. Addicts who desperately need treatment, in a lot of cases, simply can't afford the costs of treatment or their health insurance has denied covering substance abuse. The Federal government is stepping up and is trying to assist certain states with the funding required to send thousands of individuals to treatment.

A $13.1 million grant to allow expanded options for more than 7,000 people seeking treatment for addiction will be given to the State of Illinois. Thanks to Access to Recovery, which is funded by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, a number of people will get the help that they desperately require. The Illinois Department of Human Services will use the grant money to recruit additional service providers for four more years; the money will be used to cover vouchers for patients seeking individual treatment. The type of treatment facility the addicts can go to are not exclusive to standard drug and alcohol treatment, faith and community-based agencies will be covered as well.

Since the beginning the grant has helped 15,000 people in Illinois, now, with the new funding, another 7,600 more people will have access to recovery programs. Access To Recovery will be working side by side with the Illinois National Guard to help service members coming stateside with all the recovery programs available. There are a number of service men and women who come back from overseas with a drug or alcohol problem often times coupled with post-traumatic stress disorder or severe depression. Soldiers will now have better access to treatment facilities and mental health care which will ultimately save lives.


Thursday, October 7, 2010

New Laws Expand Mental Health, Addiction Treatment

Anyone who has suffered from addiction or is currently in the grips of their addiction that has sought treatment for their problem may have found that health insurance typically will refuse to pay for most of their treatment and/or therapy. Health insurance has long been known to place less emphasis on mental ailments than for physical maladies, this gap in coverage has severely hindered those individuals who wanted to be free from addiction. Most treatment facilities are costly and the reality of paying out of pocket for treatment is simply impossible for most addicts. Fortunately, times are changing and the dream of being able to afford adequate treatment for addiction may soon be a possibility as new policies require health insurance companies to treat mental disorders and addiction the same as any other health problem.

"Two federal laws that provide better insurance coverage for more people with mental health and substance abuse conditions are just beginning to take effect, and advocates describe the changes as a huge win for consumers that will greatly improve treatment", according to KHN. Patrick Kennedy, son of the late Ted Kennedy, along with others, worked for years to end the disparity between different types of care that would be covered by one's insurance company. This year the new Mental Health Parity and Addiction Treatment Act, went into effect, requiring health insurance companies to treat mental health and substance abuse the same way they would any other health problem, coverage has to be equally generous under the new act. There will no longer be separate co-payment, deductibles, and visit limitations for mental health care. The law does away with different co-payments, deductibles and visit restrictions.

"These financial equalizers will be very helpful to families that have not been able to access care before," says Katherine Nordal, executive director for professional practice at the American Psychological Association. The Parity Act is still a baby and it is still possible that insurance companies will be able to find a way around the new laws, but, it is clear health care might be heading in the right direction. There are still many aspects about the new act that need to be hashed out as implementation goes into effect. MSNBC reported that, "advocates say they are pleased on the whole with the new laws. But they are watching closely to see whether plans try to erect roadblocks to treatment by claiming it's not medically necessary, for example, or requiring that someone get preapproved before receiving services, says Andrew Sperling, director of legislative advocacy for the National Alliance on Mental Illness".

Receiving coverage for treatment for any medical ailment should be a right that everyone is entitled to and under the new act insurance companies will have a much harder time sweeping mental health patients under the rug. However, we need to keep in mind that this is just one step, although a big one, along the road to fair treatment, but, in the next five to ten years it seems like health insurance will have to make some major changes to meet the new requirements they have been tasked with.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Teens Use Drugs and Alcohol for Popularity

Teenagers struggle with many things on the road to becoming an adult; the teenage years in many cases are about rebellion, social acceptance, and trying new things - even if they are bad or unhealthy. A number of teenagers try drugs for the first time so that they will be accepted amongst their peers, being "cool" is often about following the pack - saying 'no' can be trying  for teenagers. A new study done by the University of Montreal found that teens do drugs to be cool more than they do for emotional issues or for rebellion. "Our study highlights a correlation between popularity and consumption," says Jean-Sébastien Fallu, lead researcher and professor at the Université de Montréal's School of Psychoeducation. "The teenagers we studied were well-accepted, very sensitive to social codes, and understood the compromises that it takes to be popular".

The new study tracked the consumption of alcohol, marijuana and hard drugs of 500 French-speaking teenagers at three different stages of their lives. At ages 10 to 11, 12 to 13 and 14 to 15, researchers took into consideration the test subject's level of popularity and their friends. As the teenagers got older their consumption increased regardless of how "cool" they were, but, those teens who were considered more popular used drugs and alcohol more. Researchers saw an increase between ages 10 and 15 for the most popular kids whose friends were also popular, although, they did not see the same results with popular teens whose friends were not as popular as them.

"Teenagers don't consume to belong to the group or to increase their popularity level, they do it to remain well-liked", says Fallu. "It's more about keeping their status than increasing it." Even if a teen is not popular they are still at risk with drugs and alcohol.

What do you think of this study? We would like to hear from you.
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