from the what-could-possibly-go-wrong? dept.
"I lived in the bottom for years," says [Janie] Gullickson, 52. "For me and people like me, I laid there and wallowed in it for a long time."
But if she has to pick the lowest point – one that lasted years, not days, she says – it came shortly after she hit 30 in 1998. At that time, Gullickson had five kids, ages 5 to 11, by four different men. She came home from work one day as a locksmith to find that her ex-husband had taken her two youngest and left the state. Horrified, devastated and convinced that this was the beginning of the end, her life spiraled: She dropped her other son off with his dad, left her two daughters with her mom and soon became an IV meth user.
In prison six years later, Gullickson was contemplating joining an intensive recovery program when a "striking, magnetic gorgeous Black woman walked in the room, held up a mug shot and started talking about being in the very chairs where we were sitting," Gullickson remembers. There was life on the other side of addiction and prison, the woman said. But you have to fight for it. Gullickson believed her.
"I remember thinking, I may not be able to do all that, be what she was, but maybe I could do something different than this," Gullickson says. "That day, I felt the door open to change and healing."
Now Gullickson, executive director of the Mental Health & Addiction Association of Oregon, is determined to give other addicts the same opportunity. That's why she pushed for the passage of Measure 110, first-of-its-kind legislation that decriminalizes the possession of all illegal drugs in Oregon, including heroin, cocaine, meth and oxycodone. Instead of a criminal-justice-based approach, the state will pivot to a health-care-based approach, offering addicts treatment instead of prison time. Those in possession will be fined $100, a citation that will be dropped if they agree to a health assessment.
The law goes into effect Monday and will be implemented over the next decade by the state officials at the Oregon Health Authority.
[...] "I hope that we all become more enlightened across this country that substance abuse is not something that necessitates incarceration, but speaks to other social ills – lack of health care, lack of treatment, things of that nature," says Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman, D-N.J., an outspoken critic of the War on Drugs.
[...] Watson Coleman also points out that it's far more expensive to pay to incarcerate someone than get them treatment. Rehab programs not only empower people, she says, but they also save communities money.
Also at: CNN.