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Addicts need a helping hand, not handcuffs

To the editor:

After hearing about the recent heroin overdose of Stephanie Bongiovi, (the 19-year-old daughter of entertainer and philanthropist, Jon Bon Jovi) I was relieved to learn the young lady received medical attention quickly enough to avoid death or permanent injury.
However, I was saddened to learn that police in the upstate New York town where she was attending college are now pursuing criminal charges against her for drug possession, in relation to the incident.

Ms. Bongiovi is not a criminal – but rather someone in need of health services. Given her parents' level of community involvement and financial resources, I am confident they will ensure she receives the very best treatment available.

It is wrong to prosecute someone for doing something that only hurts themselves, in addition to the authorities inappropriately plastering what is a private health and family matter all across the media.
As a society, we need to stop criminalizing heroin users for personal possession and reallocate those enforcement funds to harm reduction and treatment services. To protect public health we need needle exchanges, methadone clinics, safe injection sites, access to ibogaine therapy and drug rehabilitation programs – not jail cells, that do nothing to solve the problem and in many cases make it much worse.
Heroin is a very deadly, yet very popular drug these days. We should offer a helping hand into treatment for our friends, family and neighbors suffering from addiction, not a pair of handcuffs. Gov. Christie vetoed a Good Samaritan law passed by the New Jersey
Legislature in August that would have provided legal immunity to drug possession charges if 911 were called because someone needed medical attention due to an overdose.
The governor has the blood of our state's children on his hands for that irresponsible, reprehensible veto. Only Chris Christie would put the letter of the law above human life. For every fatal overdose where the victim didn't get help because people were afraid of getting arrested, you can now thank Chris Christie.
I hope this tragic circumstance will inspire the Bongiovis to join me in advocating drug policy reform to end the failed war on drugs, and replace it with healthcare that saves lives.
Eric Hafner
Toms River

 


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