Community support for drug users a step in the right direction

  • Saturday, January 9, 2016 5:54pm
  • Opinion

The bad news is that drug use is a serious problem in our community.

There are the impacts on individuals who struggle with addiction, as well as the social costs borne by the entire community — higher crime rates and strains on social services, for example.

The good news is that, little by little, our community is taking steps to address the issue.

This past week, the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly introduced in ordinance that would facilitate the purchase of a building in Soldotna for Central Peninsula Hospital to turn into a transitional living facility for people recovering from drug and alcohol addiction.

It’s a type of facility sorely lacking in our community. The hospital’s Serenity House, a residential treatment facility, has a 30-day maximum stay. After that, there’s not a lot of options for people in recovery if they don’t already have a place to stay — which according to Bruce Richards, government and external affairs manager for the hospital, is about 40 percent those leaving Serenity House.

In years past, there has been reluctance to see transition housing and treatment facilities established on the central Kenai Peninsula — expressed as concerns over having “those types of people” in the community. We’ve seen those fears expressed over not just those recovering from drug or alcohol addiction, but also about those trying to rise above homelessness.

What that attitude overlooks, however, is that “those people” are just as much a part of the community. Helping those in need with the tools to become contributing members of the community again is just as much an investment as it is an expense.

The investment in CPH’s transitional living plan appears reasonable. The hospital has lined up grants to cover $1.1 million of the sale and construction costs; an additional $395,000 would come from the hospital’s Plant Replacement and Expansion Fund. An additional pending grant could further reduce that cost.

There are many aspects to addressing substance abuse issues. We’re glad to see the effort going toward helping those affected overcome addiction and move forward with their lives.

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