- Posted January 30, 2013 by
Los Angeles Is Working Hard On Preventing Access To Recovery From Addiction
Los Angeles, California, the place where dreams come true, advanced ideas, holistic health approaches, creative solutions. Not so much on this development. This story is more about “La-La Land”.
Los Angeles has this one wrong. Los Angeles has proposed an ordinance which would discriminate against twenty three million Americans, black and white, hispanic and asian, protestant and catholic, spiritual and agnostic, muslim and hindu, gay and straight, young and old, men and women. The Los Angeles Community Care Facilities Ordinance is not designed to help those in our community suffering from alcohol and drug addiction -- it is actually aimed at preventing them from living and recovering together in residential homes.
Los Angeles has spent several years and untold taxpayer dollars trying to craft this ordinance, and is poised to enact it, despite established law prohibiting this type of housing discrimination; opposition by an unprecedented national coalition of over one hundred and fifty nonprofit, business and civil rights groups, including the United Way; endorsement of group homes in a recent US Senate Report; and strong evidence that these residences enhance recovery and reduce recovery costs. Those recovering from addiction are protected against discrimination under various state and federal disability laws.
On January 30th, the ordinance was voted back to committee for further consideration by the City Council because, as Council Member Richard Alarcon stated, it hampers the ability of nonprofits and group homes to care for the elderly, the disabled and the homeless. What more must the Council consider? How many attempts at discrimination and bad policy does our City of Angels need?
Proponents of the ordinance claim it is needed to prevent crime and overcrowded homes, but the City already has ample laws and ordinances in place to handle those concerns and no evidence these homes have been any more of a problem than other homes where crimes sometimes take place. In fact, they are safer than other homes. The reality is that the driving force behind this ordinance is that some community groups do not want recovering addicts living in their neighborhoods. This is a "NIMBY" law -- a "Not In My Backyard" law. NIMBY laws have been around for decades. They began as attempts to segregate white neighborhoods. The reasoning was "I like Blacks and Hispanics but not in my backyard. . ." This ordinance is no different. It is simply discrimination by another guise and it is wrong.
The ordinance is also bad policy. Group homes in residential neighborhoods are necessary to enable recovery from a national health crisis. Alcohol and drug addiction is far more dangerous to our children than guns and costs us close to two hundred billion dollars a year. The disease often starts in childhood and kills more children than firearms. Athough most reach adulthood before succumbing – over one hundred thousand people lose their lives and twenty three million more remain at risk of dying each year. Curtailing this epidemic – for humanitarian and financial reasons -- can be achieved if policy makers direct some of our substance abuse budget toward programs supporting recovery from this disease.
The National Institute on Drug Abuse, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, and a recent US Senate Report recommend an individualized approach to acheive and maintain recovery from addiction, including ongoing medical care as needed, continued participation in 12 Step recovery programs, and transitional support, such as sober housing, childcare, and work training. In a recent speech at the Betty Ford Treatment Center, Gil Kerlikowske, the Director of the National Drug Control Policy, acknowledged that federal substance abuse policy has not been working, and announced that we can and must make progress against this epidemic by allocating some of our substance abuse resources to programs which support recovery. The new approach is about working smarter, not harder.
Good morning Los Angeles. Are you listening? Tune in. Shutting down homes where those suffering from this disease recover together is a step in the wrong direction and and a violation of discrimination law. We have a health crisis to combat and you are moving backward. Let's put pen to paper and draft some ordinances that enhance recovery efforts rather than sabotaging them.
Lisa M. Jacobsen, Harvest House