People who are struggling with addiction should receive a helping hand, not a prison cell. It is reported that 860,000 opioid prescriptions are issued in Delaware each year. While opioids have becoming increasingly easier to access, drug treatment services have become more and more difficult to find. Individuals struggling with addiction deserve quality treatment and easy-to-access support. Under the leadership of County Executive Matt Meyer, I worked directly with our New Castle County police, paramedics, and community advocates to expand HERO Help-- a program dedicated to providing drug and alcohol treatment to people in need, rather than incarceration. This model program helps individuals who are seeking treatment find high-quality, affordable services so they can get on the path to recovery. I also helped secure funds to provide Narcan, a life-saving emergency treatment, to law enforcement officers so they could immediately rescue an individual from death, who had just overdosed. We should not rely on criminal arrests to combat addiction. We should not be criminalizing drug addiction. Instead, we must address these issues from both a public health and public safety approach. We need to work interdisciplinarily to combat the opioid addiction epidemic.
As Attorney General, I will:
- Expand programs like HERO Help and Angels to provide the resources necessary to overcome addiction. These programs offer early intervention for people struggling with an addiction before it leads to a criminal record.
- Hold drug manufacturers accountable by continuing Delaware’s lawsuit against drug producers, manufacturers, and distributors who knowingly misrepresent the addictive nature of their products. I will continue the suit filed by Attorney General Matt Denn to ensure these corporations take substantial remedial steps to ensure their products are marketed, distributed, and prescribed properly.
- Work closely with local, state, and federal officials to identify and prosecute individuals involved and profiting in the distribution of drugs. Our office will share intelligence and strategies to identify and prosecute those who are major figures in the distribution and sale of drugs.
- Use my office’s resources to ensure those struggling with addiction receive the help they deserve, not a prison cell. Addiction is a disease—not a crime—and it should be treated as such. Criminalization has resulted in overcrowded prisons and has been too costly for our state--most importantly in terms of the human capital lost. Drug addiction is difficult enough to overcome, but we compound the challenge with criminalization. Convictions have very long tails-- they stay with individuals for a long time, making it more difficult to find housing and jobs. This of course makes it even more difficult to overcome the addiction. I believe that treating addiction like the public health problem it is-- rather than a criminal act-- will be best for public safety in the long run.
- Enhance our efforts in the Drug Diversion Courts. This is an effective program that needs to be enhanced in order to provide the opportunity for more individuals involved in the system to pursue treatment rather than incarceration.
- Reduce barriers to treatment and expedite the process. For many in need of treatment the Diversion Court and related programs have proven to be a critical motivator for them to enter and continue in treatment. We will continue to work to strengthen our relationship with the Department of Health and Social Services and the treatment community to identify ways that we can better work to support those struggling with an addiction and return them to the community, as more productive citizens.
By identifying treatment service gaps and barriers we can increase the quality and breadth of services we provide to all Delawareans. As Attorney General, I will treat the opioid epidemic for what it is—a public health epidemic—by making Delaware a place where those who need it receive a helping hand on their path to long-term recovery.