The Times West Virginian

Opinion

July 9, 2014

Adult Drug Court helps reduce rate of addicted infants born in the state

Drugs ruin lives.

And they don’t ruin just the lives of the people who make a conscious decision to try them and get slowly sucked into a life of addiction, where all thoughts and actions are dictated by the next fix.

They ruin families. They ruin the bonds between parents and children, no matter the age. They ruin the lives of little kids.

These unwilling participants will face a lifetime of mental and behavioral issues, long into their adult years. Children of addicts grow up and either use drugs, because it’s been made to look morally acceptable because of the adults in their lives, form relationships with addicts to care for them, much like they’ve had to care for their parents, or deal with a host of mental issues, like feelings of worthlessness and depression and hopelessness.

All because these little children didn’t grow up feeling protected, secure or like they were more valuable than a high or a fix.

But we have hope. We hope that the state’s system of drug courts can finally start to fix some of these social ills and break the cycle of drug abuse in families. One of the most important battles in the war against drugs is happening in homes in our own community. And if we can just change a handful of lives, that will trickle down to future generations of children who don’t have to feel alone or scared or abandoned.

There’s reason to believe that what the state has done with its system of drug courts is successful. According to the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals, since the beginning of 2011, more than 70 babies have been born drug-free to women participating in drug courts. Of those born drug-free, 10 babies were born to participants in juvenile drug courts.

Several months ago, Marion County joined many others in the state to establish a drug court system. Participants in the Marion County drug court program are individuals who have committed crimes because of their drug addiction. Changing behavior, counseling and random drug testing are just some steps the drug court takes to help the participants stay drug-free.

That doesn’t just change the lives of the addict, officials say. It changes the lives of everyone who comes in contact with them, especially their children.

Travis Zimmerman, with the Marion County Adult Drug Court, said using illegal drugs runs in the family for many of the people who go through the program.

“It’s a family cycle of substance abuse that goes from one generation to the next, and so on,” Zimmerman said.

Educating those who abuse drugs and ending that cycle is critical to a family’s lifestyle. Zimmerman said until the pattern of individuals having children with drugs in their system or later getting addicted to substances is interrupted, the problem will remain in the family.

Zimmerman said working to make drug court participants better husbands, wives, fathers and mothers can play an instrumental role in how a child grows up. “Our men are fathers,” Zimmerman said. “Even to have them clean and sober, reconnecting with their children and being good fathers not only is it impactful for them, but it’s incredibly impactful for their children.”

In 2012, the National Association of Drug Court Professionals released research it had been conducting on a national level. In the report it states that between 60 and 80 percent of substantiated child abuse and neglect cases involve substance abuse by a custodial parent or guardian.

Addiction is a disease. We wish that before someone swallowed a pill, smoked a substance or injected a drug into a vein, they could see the impact it has on every person in their lives. They can’t, unfortunately.

But if it takes getting caught committing a crime and going through a program to start building the foundation for a drug-free life for the addict and their children, that’s something that we can support and something we believe needs to be financially supported on the state and county levels.

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