Counting the costs of substance abuse in NC communities

More funding is desperately needed from state government:

The number of children in the Person County foster care system continues to rise, primarily due to substance abuse, county officials said this week. This spring, there were 82 children in the custody of Person County Department of Social Services, and 55 were displaced due to a caregiver’s drug or alcohol use.

“Substance abuse is not just affecting people using drugs,” Person County DSS Director Carlton Paylor said during an event in Roxboro on Tuesday that was billed as a “mental health town hall” and attended by about 40 people. “It’s affecting the kids,” he said. “This is like a generational curse. It keeps going on and on and on.”

For those of you who haven't been touched by this crisis (your numbers are likely dwindling), consider yourself lucky. Most of our 100 counties have little or nothing in the form of treatment facilities for substance abuse, putting even more of a burden on what few rural hospitals still manage to operate. Something as intense as a 4-week rehab program requires a 50+ mile travel, but even worse, waiting several weeks for a bed to become available. And that wait, more than anything else, often ends up being a fatal roadblock. And here's an aspect that needs to be remembered:

Paylor said he believes many people in Person County are “self-medicating” due to a lack of resources in a more rural part of the state.

He extended a scenario in an interview after his presentation.

“Let’s say they are barely making it. The transmission drops out of the Buick. We have one bus line, but if you don’t live on that line, you don’t have transportation. So if you don’t have transportation, you can’t get to work. If you can’t get to work, you’re fired. No more money coming in. Now you are depressed. It’s a snowball effect.”

More and more, public transportation is becoming a social imperative. I've had a few "disagreements" with fellow transportation advocates over the last couple of years because I keep harping about the need to assist those in the bottom 20% by providing them options for travel. Some public transit advocates see that as a mistake, that we should be promoting it for everybody, all economic classes. I get that, and I want everybody to ride, too. But if we take away that moral responsibility to aid the poor, public transit becomes simply a cost-benefit analysis, to be closely scrutinized every year to see if it "makes sense."

Well guess what, it's not going to pay for itself, it's not going to become "profitable" and funnel money back into the General Fund. It's going to be a fiscal burden, but one we must continue funding.

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