The Drug Scourge: A More Effective Strategy

A substantial amount of money is poised to address the issue of Vermont’s bloom in opiate addiction. And this time, I hope we’ll do something more effective than having agencies and non-profits compete for a share of it.

Appreciative Inquiry, Collective Impact, and Results-based Accountability evangelists all share important principles. They know that serious efforts to address problems demand strong leadership, includes all stakeholders, and recognizes no boundaries. The work culture is non-judgmental and collaborative, not narcissistic or competitive. Its work process is transparent and accountable, driven only by measurable and articulated goals, not participant agendas.

The politic way of parsing grants across competing organizations, each of which owns bits and pieces of a possible solution, is a massive waste of money.

Beneficial outcomes will derive only from an inclusive collaboration of perpetrators, victims, enforcers, rehabilitators, and those who understand the science of addiction and the socio-economic conditions in which it thrives.

Pharma has spent millions corrupting its own regulation. In 2013, pharmacies filled 207 million opiate prescriptions. M.D.s prescribe 100 Vicodin when 12 are needed. We jail rather than hospitalize addicts and those with mental health issues. The drug cartels have converted addicts into street dealers so victim and criminal are one and the same. Federal law enforcement officials know market interdiction is a fool’s errand. And finally, an economy in which twenty families own more than 60% of the rest of the population and someone earning minimum wage must work several jobs to survive, much less raise a family, only compounds the stress, poverty, and homelessness in which addiction thrives, although opiate addiction is an equal opportunity avenger.

We can do this better. The business, state and non-profit communities will need to engage and collaborate in a way that aggregates their sector and institutional knowledge and strengths. They must measure the current scope and socio-economic impacts of the epidemic in order to measure and verify success. Everyone in the opiate addiction architecture will have to be part of the workflow and deliberations. The team must publish its work, metrics, and milestones achieved in real-time to benefit from community review and to integrate feedback.

If state agencies, law enforcement, and recovery non-profits compete for these resources, we’ll just waste more time, money and resources. The only way to win this one is by working across boundaries to understand the problem in its complexity, share solutions, and spend money where it is shown to be most effective.

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