Food for thought on addiction in Montana
I read the article in last week’s Valley Journal “ Can Montana Get a Grip on Addiction.” That article seemed to only address cures and treatment of an issue that is not the primary problem but rather a symptom of other problems/issues. Many of these issues are ones that Montana does not seem to care about enough to fund sufficiently.
Montana does not fund its schools well. It skimps on resources such as school nurses and mental health. Kids who cannot read are shuffled through the system and either do not graduate or they manage to graduate without basic skills sufficient for even filling out a job application. Kids with behavior problems are punished not treated. Kids who have no hope for any number of reasons often are headed for drugs and or jail because they do not have the skills to function in society.
Numerous studies have been done of prison populations with regards to mental illness or education. Some of the numbers I have found from an assortment of studies: over 50 percent of state inmates have a mental illness; over 40 percent of federal prisoners have a mental illness. Forty percent of the general prison population doesn’t have a high school diploma, as opposed to 18 percent of the general population; 1 in 10 male prisoners is a high school dropout, as opposed to 1 in 35 of the general population; and 85 percent of juvenile offenders have trouble reading. About 50 percent of prisoners have a learning disability. Dyslexia is high in the prison population, over 40 percent.
The cost of incarceration? Anywhere from $30,000 to $60,000 annually per prisoner.
Think about it as our legislators vote to cut taxes so that money can “trickle down.” How many programs will be cut or curtailed?
I am willing to bet that economists would tell us that cuts in mental health programs and education help fuel the drug problems in our country. We need to look ahead to what trickles down from poor education and mental health care. We can pay now or pay more later.