OUR VIEW: On Tuesday, vote yes for the Paint Valley levy

Highland County Sheriff Donnie Barrera said Friday that reported drug overdoses in Highland County are up a shocking 286 percent in the first quarter of 2017 compared to the same time period a year ago. Drug trafficking investigations are up 550 percent so far compared to a year ago during the same period, which the sheriff attributed to an increase in tips and more aggressive probes.

The statistics from the sheriff are just the latest in a string of reports and data backing up the undeniable fact that the illicit and deadly drug crisis is a disaster in need of confrontation.

There should be many fronts to tackling the drug crisis, especially from law enforcement and the courts at every level doing their best to fulfill their duty to protect the community. Aggressive investigations and arrests, coupled with forceful prosecution and sentencing, are crucial to combating the symptoms of drug abuse.

But addressing the root cause of drug abuse and addiction is just as important, and many would argue even more vital. There are economic and societal failings that lead to drug abuse – the breakdown of the family, the loosening of societal standards of behavior, the lessening of the importance of faith and spiritual underpinnings in people’s lives, and the lack of enough good-paying jobs are primary among them.

But also significant are mental health issues that are often at the core of an individual’s first foray into illegal drug use, or becoming addicted to legally-prescribed drugs.

On the website of the Paint Valley Alcohol, Drug Addiction and Mental Health (ADAMH) is this statement, which we view as a declaration of indisputable fact:

“Mental health, drug, alcohol and gambling addiction issues do not discriminate. They are biologically based brain disorders that can profoundly disrupt a person’s thinking, feeling, moods, ability to relate to others and capacity for coping with the demands of life. They are a very real part of everyone’s life. The Paint Valley ADAMH Board provides HELP and offers HOPE to those in need… The road to your recovery can be very lonely and isolated.”

We believe that tackling the drug crisis at its root is a critical component, among several others, of addressing the exploding drug problem. Drug abuse issues and mental health problems nearly always go hand in hand.

On Tuesday, we encourage voters to vote yes on the additional 1-mill, 10-year levy sought by the Paint Valley Alcohol, Drug Addiction and Mental Health (ADAMH). As sheriff Barrera noted in a recent letter supporting the levy, “For approximately $3 per month per homeowner, we can make a positive impact in our community to assist in taking care of families and children who deserve the prevention and counseling services.”

Supporting more resources for Paint Valley will not be the end-all, be-all to solving the drug crisis. But it’s important not just to tackle the symptom, but to also attack the disease itself. If we truly care about winning this battle, we sometimes have to dig a little deeper than we already have in putting our money where our mouth is. Vote yes for the Paint Valley levy.