The recent epidemic rise in opioid use disorders and overdoses has put the spotlight on two elected positions that hold the key to local change. Why? Because most of those arrested in our community have a substance use disorder or other mental illness, and are not a danger to the community. Most who commit crimes are arrested and detained by the Sheriff’s Office. And if someone is charged with a crime, 97 percent of the time the case is settled out of court through a plea offer made by the district prosecuting attorney.
On October 24, at 7 p.m., at the Crosby Little Theater in Belfast, a new, nonpartisan, information-gathering group, C.A.M.S., Community Addiction and Mental health Solutions, is sponsoring a forum and debate among the candidates for the position of District VI Attorney and Waldo County Sheriff. Candidates for Sheriff are incumbent Republican Jeff Trafton and Independent John Gibbs. Candidates for District Attorney are incumbent Republican Jon Liberman and Democrat Natasha Irving.
Although substance use disorder and mental afflictions are illnesses that need treatment, adequate treatment simply does not exist behind bars. As a result, these people tend to not only get worse in jail, but also cycle themselves over and over again through the system, not getting treatment and costing our taxpayer money. When they are released, their chances at recovery, integrating back into the community, and living a meaningful life are greatly reduced.
These are the elected positions with the power to change our current unjust, expensive and crazy system.
Come to the Forum and listen to the Sheriff and District Attorney candidates discuss their solutions and priorities to address the opioid crisis, divert those with medical illness from incarceration, keep the community safe, and save our taxpayer money. If you care about your community you should go to this forum.
Tim Hughes, M.D., lives in Belfast