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Kentucky Health Issues Poll: 80 percent of Ky. adults favor court-mandated treatment for drug offenders

Eight out of 10 Kentucky adults favor court-mandated treatment programs for individuals with first or second drug offenses, according to the latest Kentucky Health Issues Poll (KHIP). Among polled adults, those with more education were more likely to report support of treatment programs, which can be ordered in place of or in addition to incarceration.

KHIP, an annual opinion poll of Kentucky adults, is funded jointly by the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky and Cincinnati-based Interact for Health.

“We can’t arrest our way out of Kentucky’s substance use epidemic,” said Ben Chandler, president and CEO of the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky. “Addiction is a brain disease that often leads to illegal behavior. When that’s the case, we have to treat the underlying condition. Otherwise, we wind up arresting over and over individuals whose brains have been altered in a way that increases the chances they’ll engage in risky or unlawful behavior again, and we never actually solve the problem.”

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According to the National Institute of Drug Abuse, addiction is a disease characterized by drug seeking and use, despite harmful consequences. A court order may be necessary to get the person into treatment; drug courts can mandate treatment and are widely available in Kentucky, with the exception of Logan, Todd, Carroll, Grant and Owen Counties.

The cost of treatment, while typically the responsibility of the patient, doesn’t have to be a barrier. Federal parity law requires Medicaid and most private health insurance programs to cover treatment for substance use and other mental health disorders at the same level they cover treatment for other medical care.

How well addiction treatment programs work depend on a variety of factors, including the patient and the program, but successful completion of any type of treatment program is more effective than jail time alone in reducing the health, crime and other costs associated with addiction. In fact, research shows that patients who successfully complete treatment have a lower risk of being arrested on drug-related charges again than those who were sentenced only to jail time.

The KHIP report also notes that support in Kentucky for mandatory treatment programs was higher among those adults polled who said they believe that addiction is a disease than those who did not share that belief. Moreover, strong support for these programs held steady across all political parties.

A copy of the KHIP report regarding how Kentucky adults perceive court-mandated drug treatment programs is available here. A previous report, which found that most Kentucky adults believe addiction is a disease, released April 23, is available here.

The Foundation’s annual Howard L. Bost Memorial Health Policy Forum will explore the substance use epidemic in Kentucky and examine the latest solutions. The September 24 Forum in Lexington will feature experts in public health, law enforcement, pain management, and alternative therapies. Speakers will share successes, debunk myths, and discuss how the public and private sectors can better coordinate and pay for successful programs. Registration for the conference will open soon

From Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky

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