The Washington Monthly: Opinion: Martin Longman: White House Heroin Initiative is a Start
This is really something that we should’ve been doing since the so-called War on Drugs started in 1971. But then had we of done that, then maybe the War on Drugs is never started. Wait, that would’ve actually been a great thing. Just think of the hundreds of thousands of people we wouldn’t have in prison today. And instead of collecting tax dollars, instead they’re getting cleaned and paying into the system instead. What I’m getting at is not a question of whether this would be a good idea or not. That is treating non-drug selling drug offenders as addicts and putting them in rehab instead of jail. But the question is like any government initiative especially when budgets are tight, is how you pay for it.
Generally speaking, I’m a big fan of the 2010 Affordable Care Act, which I believe I’ve made clear on this blog. But it does have at least three major shortfalls. Not creating a public option for Medicare. So non-seniors, could pay into Medicare along with their employers and use that as their health insurance. And it would have been their option, not mandate. Dealing with mental health care and not fulling paying for our mental health care system in this country. Had we done that, I believe we would have fewer shootings today. Because those shooters would have been in a mental hospital getting the help that they need. And the other has to do with drug rehab and the War on Drugs.
You put drug addicts into rehab and people who are caught in possession of heroin, cocaine, or meth, in halfway houses, if they’re not addicts instead of jail, or prison and same thing with small time drug dealers, we would have a mentally and physically healthier country. We would also have a hell of a lot fewer people in the criminal justice system. Instead they would be in the health care system as it as to do with drug abuse. And abusing alcohol, tobacco and legal medications, is also abusing drugs. Only you don’t go to jail for abusing those drugs if that’s all you’re doing. But you do make a mess of your life that others may have to pay for.
I think the way we finance drug rehab in America, is the same way we could finance mental health. Which is though the health insurance system both private and public. Require all public and private health insurers, including Medicare and Medicaid, to cover mental health and drug rehab. I would even be happy raise the payroll tax and cut the corporate tax to pay for this. So people don’t lose other benefits as a result. And tell illegal drug users, that they’re going to rehab instead of jail. And they successfully complete the program. They won’t get a criminal record as a result. Instead of treating essentially mental patients, which addicts are in a way, like felons.