It is not enough to discuss the Commonwealth’s substance abuse problem – we need to solve it. As your senator, I will champion efforts to change ill-conceived mandatory sentencing guidelines and fight to emphasize drug treatment and prevention. Every low-level offender sent to prison for a year costs taxpayers nearly $45,000. Sending that same person to treatment and giving them a year of probation would save taxpayers almost $20,000. This would save about $30 million annually – a win-win for the Commonwealth and for addicts who desperately need to change their lives.
We also need increased police and community involvement on these issues. I strongly support initiatives like the Detention Diversion Advocacy Project, an anti-crime and anti-gang partnership of state and community groups in Boston. We must also restore funding for the Shannon Community Safety Initiative-effective anti-gang grants that were slashed this past year. These multidisciplinary programs are absolutely essential to keeping our kids safe.
I know that these are pressing economic times and most people are concerned about losing their job, home or retirement. We have made progress on access the health care, but costs continue to soar. I also appreciate that there continues to be a need for ethics reform in government, and the public is justifiably concerned about the inaction at the state house despite the urgency of their needs. I promise to talk more about those matters later.
I also know there isn’t a silver bullet to solve the youth substance abuse problem, or any of the other serious issues we face. But I do know that no kid starts out life wanting to be an addict, and that’s reason enough for me to fight to make sure we do better. I hope you’ll join me.