Retreat stance on opioid policy raises questions, reflects apathy

NEWFANE — I appreciate the excellent Special Focus section on the opioid epidemic. However, this sidebar left me feeling discouraged, with more questions than answers, because apparently the answer to the question posed in the headline is “no.”

The excuses that the Brattleboro Retreat's senior director of patient care services, Kurt White, gives to this question indicate what is wrong with this country.

He relays that we can look at what other countries do, but “not every country has the same set-up and the same needs.”

How are the needs different? Tell me.

A bit later, White says that strategies used by countries like Portugal and Switzerland are “unlikely to be politically viable in the United States.”

This is the same answer we always get, whether we are talking about climate change, single-payer health care, equal pay for women, or funding our schools.

The apathy displayed here is astounding. How will we ever find out if these methods will work in the U.S. if we don't try them?

Apparently, White is not exploring anything new, because he “seemed to articulate a general satisfaction with current practices and the trends they appear to be producing.”

He “prefers to view and approach the situation as a manageable problem with a generational shelf life.” On what does he base this assessment? He doesn't say. Are we to just rely on his expertise? And while he may be willing to throw away a generation waiting for the problem to miraculously end, why would we be willing to do so?

I don't think it is realistic to think that the aftereffects of this generational shelf life will stop with this generation. As long as we don't address the trauma perpetuated daily on all levels of society, our spiritual crisis - and the substance abuse that ensues - will continue.

I'm not sure that Kurt White has been humbled enough by his 15 years with the program, and I really hope that he doesn't think of himself as an expert. In my experience, those who call themselves “experts” tend to close their minds to new evidence.

Those struggling with addiction seem to be the real experts whose voices need to be heard, and I'm not sure why we would not want to continually improve the practices in dealing with addiction.

This crisis is much bigger than managing addiction.

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