And in the two weeks following their release, former prisoners are 129 times more likely to die from overdose than members of the general population. This is despite the fact that we have robust evidence showing that we can decrease the incidence of relapse, overdose, drug-related health complications like HIV transmission, criminal activity after release and recidivism by offering treatment.And unequivocal data highlights that medication-assisted therapy — that is, treatment with methadone or suboxone — in prisons saves lives. A study published recently in the journal Addiction showed that offering medication-assisted treatment in prisons reduced drug-related overdose deaths by 85 percent in the four-week period following prisoner release and reduced mortality from all causes by 75 percent over the same period.Few other medical interventions have demonstrated such success. Unfortunately, however, the majority of correctional facilities in the United States do not offer programs for people addicted to opioids.Out of the 3,200 U.S. jails, only 23 provide maintenance therapy to inmates. Categories: Editorial, OpinionMultiple leaders across the nation, including Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan and even President Donald Trump, have declared states of emergency in response to the opioid epidemic.Policymakers claim to be battling this public health crisis on all fronts, but one arena continues to be conspicuously ignored: our prisons and jails. Roughly half of all incarcerated individuals suffer from addiction. And if we want to save lives on the streets, we cannot send people out of prisons untreated and abandon them when they are the most vulnerable to overdose.If we’re serious about addressing the opioid epidemic, we have to pay attention to the evidence demonstrating that opioid treatment in jails and prisons is highly effective.And we must act by quickly expanding such treatment to many more facilities around the country. Current programs offering in-facility treatment should guide the nation, serving as examples of how we can provide vulnerable, disenfranchised people with the care they deserve as fellow humans and members of our society.If we claim, whether as a community, a state or a nation, to be fighting the opioid crisis on all fronts, let us not forget one that offers undeniable evidence of a way to save lives. Dr. Justin Berk is a combined internal medicine/pediatrics resident in urban health at Johns Hopkins Hospital.More from The Daily Gazette:Foss: Should main downtown branch of the Schenectady County Public Library reopen?EDITORIAL: Beware of voter intimidationEDITORIAL: Urgent: Today is the last day to complete the censusEDITORIAL: Find a way to get family members into nursing homesEDITORIAL: Thruway tax unfair to working motorists This is a critical public health issue, and the benefits of the therapies we can offer to people with opioid addiction who are currently incarcerated reach far beyond those individuals.Our communities benefit too when we help those suffering from addiction get the care they need to survive and live healthy lives. Skeptics will argue against such treatment by asserting that it is too expensive, or that it will be “diverted“ and used inappropriately, or that the people with addictions who end up incarcerated should have taken more personal responsibility.But these interventions have been shown to be cost-effective.Diversion can be minimized, while treatment could actually improve security.And moralizing arguments against a well-recognized psychiatric disorder are antiquated, demonstrating poor knowledge of evidence-based treatment, if not also little compassion for a vulnerable population. I have seen first-hand that suboxone allows many people to concentrate on their lives instead of their addictions upon their release from jail or prison. And out of the 50 state prison systems, only four offer such treatment.This means that people who are fortunate enough to be part of a treatment program before their incarceration are, upon their entrance to a jail or prison, often taken off their medications and forced to endure cruel, painful and dangerous periods of withdrawal. This is not a problem of resources.Many incarcerated patients currently receive appropriate care for other chronic conditions, including diabetes, HIV, cancer and even more-newly-recognized disorders, like gender dysphoria.Our federal and state corrections systems have the capacity to offer this treatment — a treatment defined as “essential medicine“ by the World Health Organization.The inability to access medical treatment with such established benefits is an unacceptable violation of prisoners’ constitutional right to basic health care.But this is not just an issue of rights, and this is not just about prisoners.
According to the comptroller’s audit, some schools “underreported incidents or failed to report them at all, including one case in which a school failed to report cyberbullying, despite the fact that the police were involved.”Meanwhile, and most disturbingly, in many instances, parents and guardians are being left in the dark by school districts when their children are being bullied or involved in an incident of bullying. Although schools are required to report incidents to the state Education Department, the Dignity for All Students Act does not require schools to alert parents when their child has been bullied or is believed to be the perpetrator of bullying. The law currently leaves it up to each school district to develop its own policy for parental notification. Sadly, this serious gap in state law has led to fatal consequences. In April 2015, 13-year-old Jacobe Taras of Fort Edward tragically took his own life as a result of bullying. Jacobe’s parents, Christine and Richard Taras, say they were not notified by Jacobe’s school of the extent of bullying he faced. That’s why I am sponsoring legislation, “Jacobe’s Law,” to require that schools notify parents when a child is being threatened by a bully. “Jacobe’s Law” (S.1355B/A.8114B) requires that school employees charged with receiving reports of harassment, bullying or discrimination make a reasonable and good-faith effort to contact the parents or guardians of the students involved – both the bully and the victim — in an incident of bullying or harassment. Bullying is defined based on what’s listed in the Dignity for All Students Act under Article 2 of the state’s Education Law, and it outlines what incidences schools are currently required to report to the state Education Department. Categories: Editorial, OpinionNo child should have to experience bullying in or out of school. While bullying has existed within the bricks and mortar of our schools for years, the prevalence of new communications technologies like smart phones and social media have compounded the problem by giving bullies a thermonuclear weapon to harass and torment their victims exponentially.It used to be that once children left school grounds and got off the school bus, they were largely free from bullying. But with the internet and social media applications like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Snapchat and Instagram, there is no escape and no sanctuary from the emotional trauma inflicted by bullies.Besides the physical abuse, every child’s step or misstep can now be videoed, photographed and tweeted for the whole world to see and potentially ridicule. In 2012, the Dignity for All Students Act became law as a means to address bullying in our schools. Unfortunately, over the past five years, we have seen an alarming number of gaps in the law.A new audit by the state comptroller’s office found that over this period, 31 percent of schools did not report incidents of bullying and harassment to the state Education Department as required by law. “Jacobe’s Law” is a nonpartisan bill which unanimously passed the Senate earlier this year. Assemblywoman Patricia Fahy (D-Albany) is sponsoring the bill in the Assembly. Schools should make parents aware of threats of violence to their children so that a parent or guardian can take action they deem appropriate and have input on decisions of how best to protect their child’s safety and emotional well-being.Our educational system continues to ask and urge parents to be more involved in their children’s education through the PTA and volunteering at our schools. Yet we don’t require schools to notify them of incidents of emotional and physical bullying. That just doesn’t make sense!If the statistics and incidences of bullying are important enough to report to the administrators at State Ed, then they are important enough to make parents aware of to intervene and potentially help avert a tragedy.My heart goes out to the Taras family and all the families that have faced this devastating tragedy related to bullying. I can only hope that through “Jacobe’s Law,” we can bring about a positive change that can involve parents in helping to stop bullying and save lives.State Sen. Jim Tedisco (R,C,I-REF-Glenville) represents the 49th Senate District, which includes parts of Saratoga, Schenectady and Herkimer counties and all of Fulton and Hamilton counties.More from The Daily Gazette:EDITORIAL: Beware of voter intimidationEDITORIAL: Find a way to get family members into nursing homesFoss: Should main downtown branch of the Schenectady County Public Library reopen?EDITORIAL: Thruway tax unfair to working motoristsEDITORIAL: Urgent: Today is the last day to complete the census
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