Professor Addresses Cutbacks in Methadone Program

I have blogged in the past about the Oxycontin robbers of Spokane and vicinity – see “String of Oxycontin Robberies”, “Challenge to Robbery Suspects” and “Robberies of Pharmacies“.  The legislature and local law enforcement seem to be at a loss as to how to control these crimes.  The idea was floated last year of increasing the penalties for pharmacy robberies.  When I called an acquaintance who works with the legislature, she told me that increased penalties were off the table.  The state was broke and the prisons were full.  As we know the State is closing prisons because of the budget deficit.

There was a good opinion piece in the newspaper today by Jamie Tobias Neely about some other drug related cutbacks.  Neely, who teaches at Eastern Washington University, wrote here about how recovering addicts were getting kicked out of the methadone program because of cutbacks.  I guess I had heard about the proposed cuts in the county’s methadone program last summer, but hadn’t heard the latest.

When Oxycontin robberies are covered in the press, you can tell by reader comments how the public feels about the subject.  There is no understanding about the nature of addiction, and the comments simply cry out for longer prison terms.  Some people are amused by what they perceive as the stupidity of the robbers.  The fact that the addicts are desperate is lost.  Last year, an Iraq War vet in Spokane robbed a store for Oxycontin.  Others have robbed for methadone.   Take a look at all the articles in the Spokesman-Review tagged with the term “Oxycontin“.  The stories in the aggregate make clear what can be missed by just reading one story at a time.  The addicts come from all walks of life, they often led productive lives prior to addiction, they often get started when the drug was prescribed, and they were so sick at the time of the robbery that no anticipated prison sentence would likely deter them.

Jamie Tobias Neely tells the rest of the story.  Addicts are getting kicked out of the methadone program and on to the street due to budget cutbacks that are penny-wise and pound-foolish.  Although it is possible to get a methadone prescription from a doctor, many doctors are obviously apprehensive about dealing with opiate addicts.  The Spokane methadone program requires urinalysis testing, and offers counseling.

Washington State anticipates having to close prisons,  and Spokane just laid off a number of prosecutors and public defenders.   When the addicts are kicked out of the methadone program who will be around to handle the court cases?

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Steve Graham is a criminal defense lawyer, and he splits his time between Spokane and Seattle, Washington. Visit his website by clicking:
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