Some Letter to the Editor Goodness….

Ah, Letters to the Editor.  Where everyone has a chance to share their often ignorant opinion.  Recently here in Altoonaland, the seemingly heartless have been grasping their crayons and firing off their compassion filled screeds to the local fishwrap.  Drug and alcohol treatment is the issue at hand, and since you know I have a history there, of course these letters have caught my attention.

First up is James Thompson with his letter titled, Why should society have to pay?:

Every individual is responsible for his/her own actions. If the individuals don’t care about themselves as well as the others around them, then why should society have to pay the price of their disrespect? Dumping billions of dollars into failed programs to give these people more chances makes no economic sense at all.

Unless, of course, you have people that view this misfortune of society as a cash crop. They can fill their own pockets with taxpayers’ money and share some of it with judges, politicians and media who advocate these failed programs as long as there is something in it for them.

That is a pretty serious accusation there.  Drug treatment programs are providing kickbacks of taxpayer’s money to judges, politicians, and the media?  Add in the mention of a specific person here and I think you have libel on your hands.  This may not be “knowing,” but it is definitely a “reckless disregard for the truth.”  How much can ignorance defend you?

Before that accusation, he makes the “everyone is responsible for their own actions” argument.  I don’t necessarily disagree with that; I personally take responsibility for my past drug abuse.  It’s the next part of his argument I find fault with:  What would he suggest that we do with these people if not fund programs to help them?  Lock them up in prison?  How is that cost-effective?  Instead of paying for treatment taxpayers end up paying for supporting these people for life?  Just ignore them?  Fine, but they aren’t going to go away, and those that want help are being effectively condemned to no future for the mistakes of their past.  You better have one squeaky clean history if you are willing to damn someone for a mistake they made years ago.  It is so easy to blast the current state of affairs when you don’t have to supply any alternate ideas.  If not funding drug treatment programs, what is your idea that makes economic sense?

A better approach to this problem would be to take the position “if they don’t care, why should we?” We should make these criminals and addicts pay dearly for their bad decisions and the new body of knowledge will be “everybody doesn’t do it.”

Obviously written by someone who has never had a loved one affected by drug abuse.  God, his solution took absolutely no effort to think of or write out, mainly because it is completely thoughtless and ignorant.  By “pay dearly” is he suggesting jail time?  Then how the fuck does that eliminate the economic problems?  You exchanged one cost, the cost of treating drug addicts and perhaps turning them into productive members of society, with the cost of locking them up, housing and feeding them, and giving up on them.  What a trade.  If not jail time, then what?  His “better approach” is just empty words that probably felt really good to write.  Yeah, fuck those addicts!  But it does nothing to actually solve the problem.  And it is almost cute that he thinks this approach would instill a “new body of knowledge,” and presumably cause people to not use drugs in the first place.  What are you, a right wing five year old with your simplistic solutions to world problems  “If their mommies would put them all in time out, there would be no more wars!”  You are writing this letter to a newspaper that routinely runs stories reporting on sentences that strain credibility being handed down to drug dealers.  Yet strangely enough, it is no more difficult to get heroin in Altoona than it was when I was using it.  We already are incredibly tough on drugs, and the drug use continues.

We have already taken this approach with alcohol and tobacco.

Wait, what?  We have?  Since when?  You do realize that many of the people in drug treatment are there because of alcohol abuse, right?  That the main 12 step group, that all the local rehabs are based on, is called Alcoholics Anonymous?  What the flying fuck are you smoking if you think that we have already taken your approach with alcohol?  Do you need some treatment?   And tobacco?  What, does Medicare now not treat lung cancer in people who smoked?  How did I miss that?  Look, James?  Unicorns are not real, when you call the California Psychic line, the person who answers is not a psychic, and your heavy handed approach is not applied to alcoholics.  Sorry to have to play the role of mythbuster for you.

Group homes and drug clinics are, in reality, welfare at its worst. They are proven failures and make problems even worse.

“In reality” does not mean in your self created fantasy land.  I am sorry that you use phrases that you do not know the meaning of.  As for your final claim there, citation fucking required.  Proven failures, are they?  Did you actually read a slanted article on some right wing blog that made that claim, or did you just pull it out of your own rectum while composing your letter?  Perhaps you follow Scientology, or were checking out an anti-methadone site and decided you could apply that article to all treatment forms.  You are wrong either way, but if you provided a citation I could at least refute it rather than you.

If that wasn’t enough ignorance on drug and alcohol treatment for one month, just a few weeks later the Altoona Mirror printed another letter on the same subject, this one by Rodger Macek title Limit funding used to combat drug abuse.:

Enough is enough!

In response to the recent letter by Jonathan Wolf, CEO of Pyramid Healthcare, let’s get right to the real reason he wants increased funding for drug use.

More funding means more help for his company. Also, look how many more brain-affected clients he’ll have.

Is this really a widespread belief?  That drug treatment providers don’t give two shits about the people they are attempting to help, they just want to get rich?  Seriously, look into how much a drug counselor with a master’s degree earns.  You have to have a calling to get into this line of work.  I do not know Mr. Wolf personally, but I have friends who do, and by all accounts he honestly cares about the people his company helps.  Are some company heads into nothing but the bottom line?  Probably, it is a capitalist society, but there is a great demand for treatment in America.  Sure, increases in funding would allow more people to seek treatment, and some of those people would probably choose Pyramid as their provider.  Would Mr. Macek apply the same cynicism towards a different subject?  If the head of the Altoona Hospital’s Cancer Treatment department write a letter calling for increased funding for cancer treatment, would Mr. Macek find the same conflict of interest?  Or is is just because this deals with drugs?

And just to be clear, Mr. Wolf does not want increased funding for drug use.  He wants increased funding for the treatment needs of drug abusers.

These people knew what they were getting into to start with. You might put the blame for this where it belongs: half decent parenting.

Many parents nowadays don’t have time for their kids, just don’t care, or are on drugs themselves. Instead of increased funding, drop all funding and let them live the life of hell they have created.

Hey, it’s the “everyone is responsible for their own decisions” argument, now with the added bonus of throwing the parents under the bus!  As we admire the combination of these arguments, let us take a moment to bask in Mr. Macek’s overwhelming compassion as he suggests we cut all funding and “let them live the life of hell they have created.”  Spoken, I am sure, by a man who never once made a mistake ever in his spotless life.  We should all be so lucky.

Taxes go up – we live with it.

Gas goes up – we live with it.

Food goes up – we live with it.

Social Security increases – everything goes up.

Guess what? We live with it.

Let’s all do the apathy dance!  See those people who are trying to change things?  Those people who get involved?  Those people who educate themselves and try to fix what they see as wrong?  Fuck ’em, just live with it!  As much as I disagree with them, try telling a member of the Tea Party that when taxes go up, they should just live with it.  I’m sure they would stop trying to ban abortion just long enough to tell you that their whole movement exists as a response to high taxes.  Of course, they would immediately forget about taxes and return to pushing their far right social issues, but hey, it is the thought that counts, right?

Altoona, like many other communities, has an epidemic of drug use and crack houses.

Don’t make it easy on them with providing more funding. Cut the head off the snake: Stop feeding them with taxpayer money.

See, this just confuses me.  How the fuck does funding drug treatment lead to more crack houses and drug use?  Does he think that this taxpayer money is going to buy drugs for addicts to use?  To pay rent on crack houses?  How does stopping treatment reduce drug use?  Will someone explain this to me?


Our final letter is from someone who gets it.  It is by E. Joseph Grsevinsky Jr, and titled Don’t oversimplify reasons for addiction.:

After reading Rodger Macek’s compassionate letter of July 23 on the issue of treatment for drug abuse and addiction, and the funding required to make it possible, I was compelled to write a response.

Apparently, Macek is one of the lucky ones who does not have a family member, a loved one, or a friend affected by drug abuse.

It is all too easy, when not personally touched by the issue, to be able to coldly look down one’s nose at these people, to judge and condemn, either silently or in letters to the local paper, the moral failings of the addict and negligent parenting of their parents.

While I sincerely hope that he never has to experience someone he loves suffering through the pain of addiction, I urge him to stop conceitedly assuming that he has all the answers and solutions, to open his mind a bit and seek out some education on the subject before unleashing his next ignorant rant on the citizens of Altoona.

He claims that “these people knew what they were getting into.”

Let me assure you that no one wakes up and decides that they want to become a drug addict, just like no one goes to the bar with the intention of becoming an alcoholic.

People start using drugs and alcohol for a myriad of reasons; destroying their lives is not one of them. Macek then pins the blame for addiction firmly on the parents of the addict; if only they would have paid more attention when the child was growing up.

I am sure the legion of parents with addicts for children, who spend countless sleepless nights wondering if they could have done anything to stop it, if they could have seen a sign before it was too late, if it was their fault their child walked the path they chose, will forever be thankful for Macek’s confirmation that, yes, it is all their fault.

Truth be told, some addicts have horrible parents, or no parents, while some have incredible, loving families.

Macek’s oversimplification is hurtful.

He gives a list of things that we just have to live with, while suggesting that addicts should have to just live with the hell they created. I find that apathetic, heartless, ignorant and cruel.

When confronted with something I don’t agree with, I make the effort to try to change it; I do not just live with it. And is it not our responsibility to help those who need it?

Didn’t someone say, 2000 years ago, “I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done unto me.”

Funding treatment facilities seems a bargain if it turns addicts into functioning members of society.

Everyone has the right to their opinion. I’m thankful I do not share Rodger Macek’s.

Well said.  I probably wouldn’t have quoted Jesus if I was doing the writing, but I admit it is an effective tactic in this area.  Other than that, seems like a fine, upstanding gentleman.  Bravo, good sir.


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