What do Plastic Bags, School Shootings and Drug Addiction have in common?

Posted:  Mon, 04/16/2018 - 7:45am
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Worthy causes come in all shapes and sizes.  

 

In February and March, many letters were written and many dozens of Rockland residents lined at town council meetings to give testimony to support banning use of plastic shopping bags to protect the environment.  The city councilors patiently listened for hours to allow everyone to speak and ultimately approved a ban on plastic bag use.  This was a good cause.

 

Also, in March, following the terrible shooting deaths of 17 students and teachers at Parkland High School on February 14th, dozens of high schools across Maine joined together to protest gun violence.  This followed reports of 150 mass shootings in the United States in 2017 with more than 1,000 people killed.  Certainly, trying to stop gun violence is a very, very good cause.

 

In 2017, more than 60,000 Americans died of drug overdoses, more than one person died of a drug overdose every day in Maine and there was nearly one drug overdose death each month in Knox County in 2016-2017.  Also, in Knox County, there are thousands of residents who are addicted to opiates, 8% of babies are born from mothers who are drug addicted, 25% of teenagers use drugs regularly and 90% of the inmates of the local prison and jail are locked up related to their drug addiction.  In terms of the financial cost of drug addiction in Knox County, incarcerating people with drug addiction in Knox County costs local residents $3,000,000 - only a portion of the high cost of the epidemic.  Combating the drug addiction epidemic would seem an extremely worthy cause.

 

Inexplicably, the drug addiction, which is now the #1 cause of death for Americans under age 50, is met with relative silence from the public.  Where are the protests and lines of people expressing outrage to their government leaders?  This problem certainty seems at least as important as banning plastic bags and trying to stop school shootings but the public is much more passive with their concerns about it.

 

Recently, representatives from neighboring Lincoln County gave a very impressive presentation at the Rockland Public Library on April 10th about how their entire community came together to form a county-wide collaborative to address the addiction epidemic in Lincoln County ever since 2015.  This collaborative included all law enforcement departments in Lincoln County, two major medical centers, a very large addiction treatment practice and many others including the YMCA, church groups and many other citizens.

 

Meanwhile, in Knox County, there is no broad-based movement to address this issue. It is almost completely ignored at county and town government meetings.  It is now time for Knox County to come together, for leadership to address one of the biggest problems in Knox County’s history and to pool its resources to fight it.  In fact, time is far, far overdue.

 

In the coming months, a large contingent of volunteers will canvas our community, seeking signatures for a “Declaration of Action” to address the epidemic locally.  Please join this effort as a volunteer and/or as an active participant.  Fighting addiction takes a community and we will need everyone to be involved to the extent that each is able to help.  It is time to do this.  Please join in.

 

Please contact the Mid-Coast Recovery Coalition at info@midcoastrecovery.orgor at 701-1182 for more information or to join this cause.  Thank you.

 

Ira Mandel, MD, MPH