Dear Bloomington Community,
Today is National Write a Letter Day. When I was thinking about what kind of letter to write and to whom, I immediately thought of the topic of substance abuse and decided you would be the perfect audience. While substance abuse may mean a variety of different things to different individuals, I think we can all agree that its presence in Bloomington does not go unnoticed.
Whether you have witnessed incidents in Seminary Park, read about overdose deaths in the paper, or even experienced drug abuse within your family or friends circles, substance abuse affects us all in some way. Since this issue hits home on so many different levels, what are we doing as a community to tackle it? You may say, “Well there’s treatment available.” Yes, that is true. But doesn’t treatment only work when someone is already consumed by addiction? With the average cost of rehab ranging from $20,000-$60,000 it seems like focusing solely on treatment is putting the cart before the horse. Let’s think about what can be done as a preventative effort so we can cut these problems off at the pass.
Over 27 million Americans age 12 and older have a drug or alcohol addiction. In November, the Surgeon General released a report saying 1 in 7 people will be affected by a substance use disorder. 18-24 year-olds have the highest rate of alcohol abuse and the second highest rate of illicit drug use. With these statistics in mind, it is no question that these problems are developing very early in age. More recently, misuse of prescription drugs by adolescents and young adults have plagued urban and rural communities alike across the United States.
And if you think this doesn’t affect you in any way, think again. The Surgeon General’s Report concluded that the economic costs associated with “alcohol- and drug-related crime and violence, abuse and neglect of children, and the increased costs of health care associated with substance misuse” costs taxpayers $442 billion a year. That’s roughly $8.8 billion spent per state.
Education is the driver for opportunity and can play an important role in preventing young people from heading down the twisting and winding road of addiction. As a community, it is our job to intentionally create a climate that engages individuals academically and socially to discourage the use of substances at an early age.
You may be thinking right now, “That seems easy, but how do we do this?” Well, like the saying goes, “It takes a village.” It will require nothing short of all levels of involvement from parents, schools, community leaders, community organizations, and healthcare providers to change the narrative in Bloomington. First, we must educate ourselves on substance abuse and become more sympathetic to the fact that this is a disease, not a choice. Second, we must demand that our schools acknowledge that this is an issue and pledge to provide resources to students at an early age on what substance abuse is and how to prevent it. The use of evidence-based practices and trainings for teachers must be provided by our school systems. This is a key part of a prevention strategy because this information may not be discussed in every home of every student. Finally, our community organizations and community leaders must continue the fight to secure adequate funding to support prevention programs and resources for schools. They must also provide information about prevention practices to healthcare providers to use with their adolescent and young adult patients.
By working together, I believe that we can change the narrative of Bloomington and continue to fight against substance abuse. This is an issue that affects us all and will continue to have a larger impact on our community if we don’t do something about it now.
- Kira R.