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Alabama Drug Offenders Getting a Raw Deal


Alabama judicial systemThis week Cameron Steele wrote an expose about the Alabama judicial system sending drug offenders into uncertified treatment programs.  While I think she may miss the mark by focusing to specifically on an ex-employee of an uncertified rehab and her relapse or ruse (which could happen anywhere), she did hit on a major issue.  The state does not have the capacity to incarcerate the drug offenders and therefore needs to divert them to drug programs, but does not have enough certified drug and alcohol rehabilitation programs to send them to (Steele).  There are major questions as the efficacy of these programs.

First, at one rehab there were stories that staff members were selling prescription drugs to clients (Steele).  I can say that from my experience in treatment and sober living, this kind of story is usually true.   Similarly, some rehabs were focusing on the monetary benefit of keeping parolees for longer and not informing the courts of relapses or continued drug usage in order to get continued income from the clients (Steele).  Forty-seven percent of drug and alcohol rehabs in Alabama are for profit institutions.

In the first paragraph I referred to this story as an expose, but I misused the word in some ways.  A representative from the Alabama Department of Mental Health and Mental Retardation said that the department was addressing the issue of the court-ordered unlicensed half-way houses and rehabs and was taking it seriously…in 2008.  They were planning on inspecting and working towards certifying facilities (Parks).

The treatment centers opened in order to fulfill the demand of court-ordered referrals and parolees.  In addition to the general religious feel of the south, Governor Bob Riley actually proposed “faith-based action in dealing with community problems,” which may have led to a marriage between religion and addiction recovery.  Part of the issue with these uncertified faith-based rehabilitation centers is the concern that there may not be non-denominational or traditional recovery resources but a large emphasis on the faith-based component (Parks).

Curious about what was going on within the state today; I called the Alabama Alcohol and Drug Abuse Association, who was unaware of the issue of uncertified treatment programs.  They said, “I don’t know anything about it.”

The fact that two stories entirely four years apart discuss very similar issues disturbed me greatly.  I wonder what it says about the recovery of individuals who are court ordered into treatment who actually are trying to get sober and recover.  I know that it is hard enough to get and stay sober with adequate resources and see that it is difficult when I watch my friends, but if I had pills offered to me by staff members early in sobriety, what would I do?  Alternatively, without adequate psychological care for my dual-diagnosis issues, how could I live and stay sober?  As I am not Christian and was not raised Christian, if I was sent to a Christian rehabilitation center, would I not be repelled from the whole notion of sobriety?  Regardless of what denomination or religion one is, would a faith-based institution not be difficult based upon the fact that the Big Book stresses a personal relationship with a higher power?  These issues seem to show that the entire realm of Alabama rehab facilities is warped.

In conclusion, if you’re looking for a treatment center and you’re from Alabama, think outside the state.


Works Cited

National Substance Abuse Index. Alabama Drug Climate. 2012. Website. 9 July 2012.

Parks, Dave. Uncertified drug treatment produces nightmare complaints. 12 August 2008. Article. 9 July 2012.

Steele, Cameron. Rehab sentences given to Alabama drug offenders can be carried out in uncertified programs. 8 July 2012. Article. 9 July 2012.


By Emily F.


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