Valuable use of taxpayer money

Local officials make a stand against teens’ abuse of prescription drugs

Brian Martin is a program administrator at New Beginnings in Chico and an instructor in the Addiction Studies Department at Butte College.

Last month, I attended a meeting hosted by Judge Tamara Mosbarger to educate community members on the prevalence of prescription-drug abuse in our communities and the horrific damage it can do to the development of young people.

Sadly, the room was only about half full, and of those in attendance, most were public officials. They came to either speak on the panel or to lend support for improving this rapidly worsening situation. These were high-level department employees and department heads—the district attorney, the chief of probation and the acting chief of the Chico Police Department, among others.

The speakers included Cyla Nelson, retired head of the Butte County Behavioral Health Department’s drug court treatment team. She donated her time to share her 20-plus years of experience helping teens and families struggling with abuse/addiction.

Helen Harberts, former chief probation officer and current assistant district attorney, gave an informative and compelling presentation on the developmental challenges of adolescents. She included a summary of the research findings showing the devastation that often comes with prescription-drug abuse.

Shelby Boston from the Department of Employment and Social Services compiled data revealing a dramatic increase in prescription-drug abuse in the families of children recently removed from their homes and placed in the foster care system—at a huge expense to taxpayers.

Two Chico PD officers discussed the crime waves (bank robbery, theft, home invasion, etc.) that often result from the need to satisfy the addictions of more and more people in our community.

Finally, a teen courageously spoke of her struggle with addiction and her success in recovery.

I believe I was not alone in feeling disappointed by the poor turnout. It was ironic to see that on a day when many Americans were complaining about their taxes and attending “tea parties” intended to send a message to stop wasteful government spending, our local government officials were investing our money wisely—but few citizens showed up to benefit from it.

I do not wish to impugn the efforts of tea party attendees. We should exercise our rights to criticize our government. However, we should also take responsibility for supporting and benefiting from the positive efforts public agencies are delivering.

I hope our elected officials will choose to fund programs like this one, and the departments that participated in it. There is a great deal of evidence to support the belief that prevention costs less than incarceration.