While some drug laws are changing – witness the recent legalization of marijuana across California – attitudes toward habitual drug users are not, argues Gretchen Burns Bergman.
"The war on drugs is really a war on our own families," said Bergman, a Del Mar resident and co-founder of A New PATH (Parents for Addiction Treatment and Healing).
"We need a therapeutic, rather than a punitive, approach to drug treatment."
The organization has launched #momsresolution campaign for 2018, a social media blitz to spread the word on the group's goals.
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These include urging all 50 states to allow over-the-counter sales of Naloxone, a medication that can reverse overdoses; legalize clean needle exchange programs; and reorient "zero tolerance" programs in schools and offices away from punishment and toward treatment.
" 'Zero tolerance should be that we provide services – and find out the root causes of this – rather than kicking someone out," Bergman said. "That becomes a pipeline to prison."
She speaks from painful experience. Although raised in an affluent area, two of her sons fell into heroin addiction, one after being arrested for possessing marijuana. "He actually learned to inject heroin behind bars," Bergman said.
Last October, a White House-appointed commission on the opioid crisis echoed some of Bergman's points, urging a national system of drug courts that would send addicts into treatment instead of jail.
President Trump ordered federal agencies to help localities battle "the worst drug crisis in American history."
Bergman, though, noted that the White House provided no new funding to help the estimated 21 million Americans with substance abuse problems.
The #momsresolution campaign reaches far beyond A New PATH's San Diego base – it's now in 32 states and six countries. Conference calls, newsletters and email are used to share strategies.
"As we see the laws change," Bergman said, "people are realizing that mass arrests and mass incarceration are not working."