Support a Public Health Approach for Substance Use Disorders

It is time for a new approach to the issue of substance use disorder. Treating substance use disorder as a public health issue rather than a criminal justice issue is more effective and costs less. Research shows that every dollar spent on substance use disorder treatment saves $4 in health care costs and $7 in criminal justice costs.

SB 5476 is a step in the right direction—it decriminalizes the possession of small amounts of controlled substances for personal use and authorizes the referral of people who possess more than that to forensic navigators so that they can receive an evaluation and treatment. The bill does not go as far as we would like, especially in the area of providing resources for treatment and recovery. But, we need to pass legislation at the statewide level in order to avoid the confusion that would result from a patchwork of local laws as well as to ensure that local jurisdictions do not pass more restrictive laws.

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