Experts say alcohol and drug abuse in the District of Columbia is attributed to the wide availability of drugs, high stress levels and difficulties getting abusers into treatment fuel the city’s persistently stratospheric rates, according to national agency.
Many of you are aware Redmond O’Neal was recently sentenced by a California judge to one year of rehabilitation, instead of sending him to prison. Redmond is the son of actor Ryan O’Neal and the late actress Farrah Fawcett. Last week (Wednesday) Redmond pleaded no contest to illegal possession of a handgun and possession of heroin.
The judge recognized Redmond’s need for further treatment. He sentenced O’Neal to one year of inpatient drug rehab and five years of probation.
“We are pleased and grateful that the judge gave Redmond further treatment rather than incarceration,” his attorneys Richard Pintal and Michael Brewer said in a press conference last week. “His history of addiction warrants this approach.”
His siblings and father were in the courtroom throughout his court appearances and sentencing, and has been more supportive of O’Neal’s need for help this time around, than previous times. His older sister, actress Tatum O’Neal, has told the media that she’s made supporting her younger brother’s recovery a priority.
She has also been more vocal with her own battles with heroin and crack addiction, as noted in her autobiographies, “A Paper Life” and “Found: A Daughter’s Journey Home.”
“Tatum will move heaven and earth to do whatever she can to help Redmond get and stay sober. Tatum loves Redmond tremendously, and doesn’t want to lose her brother to this disease,” a source close to the family says.
Redmond O’Neal was arrested when officers stopped him for a traffic violation (he ran a red light) in Santa Monica, California. During the traffic stop, police searched his vehicle and found heroin in the trunk of his car. Also a loaded handgun was found in the vehicle.
It has been a long roller coaster ride for Redmond through his addiction. He has had several court appearances stemming from DUI and heroin charges. He was on probation at the time of his arrest because he attempted to bring drugs to a Los Angeles County jail in 2009. On the same day of Redmond’s most recent arrest, his brother Griffin was wanted in question for a DUI and collision incident in southern California.
The twenty-six (26) year old Redmond O’Neal’s situation brings attention back to the deadly cycle of addiction. Just last month a study by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) revealed the District of Columbia has 11.3 percent of residents twelve (12) and older abused or dependent of alcohol and drugs; the highest anywhere in the country.
Drug and alcohol problems have long plagued the District region.
In the late 1950’s, there was a growing awareness of the problem of alcohol abuse throughout out country. That awareness quickly extended to concern about what appeared to be an epidemic of drug abuse and addiction throughout the 1960’s. The U.S. government’s response to this was primarily hospitals and mental institutions. To some degree, religious approaches, and short term residential programs were practiced, but to many this proved grossly inadequate to coping with the debilitating illness and lifestyle of drug addiction.
Now in 2011, to some, it appears the federal government is moving back to promoting [what they see as] less affective short-term and health related models of addiction treatment. Under this model the individual in treatment is often not part of the essential ingredient of recovery.
A case worker (who didn’t want her name and place of business used) with a popular recovery agency in the District of Columbia said, “Long term programs are more effective, yet, it feels many organizations are being led to follow these ineffective short term programs.”
She added that some people in recovery do profit from short term programs, but largely long term programs work better because they give people more time to assist in changing the thinking and developing better positive habits.
Many organizations have recommended an expansion of outpatient treatment under The Affordable Care Act (ACA) with no mention of the need for long-term residential treatment as part of the mix. Also there is little or no reference to the essential part addicts in recovery play in helping themselves and others.
One advocate who believes this is Barry Simon, executive director of Gilead Community Services [located in Middletown, CT]. Simon was recently selected as Advocate of the Year Award from the National Council for Community Behavioral Healthcare (NCCBH) last month during the organization’s Annual Public Policy Institute and Hill Day here in Washington, D.C.
Simon spends much of his time speaking to legislators in D.C. as he tries to keep healthcare accessible. He opposes cuts to Medicaid, which he says is the main funding source for the “safety net” of mental health and addictions services. He also pushes for the expansion of federal incentives for the adoption of information technology, and the creation of mental health centers for essential services.
Until Simon and his supports gets his way, the relatively new short-term model called “Screening and Brief Intervention” (SBI)” is becoming the norm as the new way to have treatment reimbursed by Medicaid and Medicare.
One question many opponents to this method are asking is What about the group of hard core long term addicts with criminal records needing long term help? They feel without including help for this cross-section of the U.S. population, the “new model” may be a resurrection of the failure prone “we-they” models of the 1960’s, and that will be unfair (and hurtful) to many who require long term therapy.
Ben L., a southeast resident who is a returning citizen and in recovery, said, “The nature of my disease often causes relapse. Because of that, I understand I need years of a sustained supportive continuum of recovery; something that will respond to relapse quickly and the right way.”
People like Redmond O’Neal, Washingtonians, and all those in recovery [or treatment] needs years to stabilize recovery. It takes years to learn to ‘try on’ and live a new positive lifestyle and during this time support and encouragement is critical.