Aug 17, 2010 9:48 PM by Ariel Wesler
A local group is calling on Santa Barbara County leaders to change the way they handle drug and alcohol abuse. Families act says recent numbers from the county coroner's office show drug and alcohol-related deaths tripled from 2008 to 2009. They say rehabilitation should be the main focus.
In recent weeks, we've seen record pot busts and drug overdoses in Santa Barbara County. The latest numbers from the coroner's office show, there were 115 alcohol or drug related deaths in 2009. That number nearly tripled the 39 from 2008. Overdoses almost doubled, jumping from 33 in 2008 to 62 in 2009.
"Most people who abuse drugs are self medicating for other cocurring mental illness or physical illness," said Jean Lott of Lompoc, a mother of a drug user.
The grassroots group Families Act says something needs to be done to treat the county's drug problem. . .not lock it away.
"They're not just somebody we can throw away or lock away and forget about. These are members of our society that deserve our compassion and our dollars," said Janice Shea, a treatment manager at the Hotel de Riviera in Santa Barbara.
The county's drug and prevention office says it's state funding has been cut more than 30 percent in the last four years, but estimates about 10 percent of the county has a serious drug or alcohol abuse problem.
"If there's money for prisons and jails, there is money for treatment," Lott said.
But the Sheriff's department says of the nearly 80 percent of drug abusers in the county jail, the majority are in for some other crime. Drug users are also usually the first to be released early. Nevertheless, Families Act is still pushing for some kind of residential treatment facility in the county.
The coroner's office plans to take another look at the alcohol and drug related deaths to make sure the numbers are completely accurate.
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