On Wednesday, January 3rd, the Dayton Daily News reported that Ohio State Representative Niraj Antani (R-26, Miamisburg) is “pushing a bill [HB 457] that would require people on parole or probation who test positive for illegal opioids [to] be jailed or sent to a 30-day residential drug treatment program”. The article also indicates it would be an unfunded mandate. It briefly mentions wanting to deal with the distributors and dealers, but there’s no reporting on how this bill would do that.
I’m using this post to invite Mr Antani to please consider an open invitation to him from me to visit with the 20+ masters level social work students in my Social Welfare Policy course at Cleveland State University this spring, or my Social Work and the Law class so he can hear directly from Ohioans who aspire to practice with the very population he suggests will be well-served by being jailed or placed into mandatory treatment.
What do I think he will learn? Well, for one thing, he will learn that he and I have a highly respected and well-thought of friend in common who I won’t name here but if I told him she is finishing up a masters in public health at Columbia University, I suspect he’d know who I’m talking about. Speaking of which, she would be a fabulous person for him to talk to about far more productive ways to get at the horrific problem of opioid addiction other than jailing or threatening mandatory treatment.
I’d also urge him to watch Breaking the Taboo about the failed war on drugs, not because of how it details the failed war efforts by the United States, but because it highlights how nearly 10 other countries have battled drug problems for decades and guess what almost always help? Treating drug use as a health issue, not criminal behavior.
In my policy course, we talk a lot about power and how people in our statehouses and Congress are the people who get to decide what behavior is criminal and what isn’t, that there is no inherently criminal behavior in our country – only behavior that Mr. Antani and his colleagues and the thousands of other federal, state and local electeds get to decide is or isn’t criminal. That is incredible power.
When it comes to drug-related social problems, there isn’t anyone who isn’t frustrated. Of course we want our electeds to be working on how we solve them. But criminalizing use the way HB 457 suggests is not the answer, and creating an unfunded mandate, well, that’s just never a good idea no matter what subject area we’re talking about. Drug testing welfare recipients, which Mr. Antani also showed an interest in back in 2015, is also a horribly ineffective use of public dollars when it comes to combating drug-related social problems. Just because others are doing it, doesn’t mean it has any value.
I was going to email State Rep. Antani before posting this entry, but I figured in an era where our president is using Twitter to let people know pretty much everything he’s thinking, what’s old is new – I’ve been using this blog to take action like this since 2005.
I will follow up with an email to Mr. Antani including a link to this post. Some of his statehouse colleagues have in fact spoken to my classes over the last couple of years. I cannot tell you how much the social work students love it. Please, let’s figure something out.