Editorial — Addiction, problems at jails, are connected entities

Date Published: 
July 7, 2017

Gov. John Carney signed a $4.1 billion budget for the 2018 fiscal year on Sunday night, and while people will no doubt scrutinize, argue and complain about nearly every line item approved, there were two elements that received extra attention that are particularly worth noting.

The first is Delaware’s addiction crisis, which is obviously not Delaware’s crisis alone, but still an extremely pressing issue for our state. Several bills were passed, on a bipartisan basis, that are designed to expand access to substance-abuse treatment, strengthen the oversight of opioid prescriptions and combat Delaware’s addiction crisis.

There were also two bills, SB111 and HB220, aimed at furthering the fight against addiction and mental illness. The Behavioral Health Consortium and Addiction Action Committee were created to form an integrated plan and blueprint for action for the prevention, treatment and recovery for mental health, substance use and co-occurring disorders in the state, according to officials.

The second element to receive a lot of attention this budget is the situation at the State’s correctional facilities, emphatically brought to light in February during the deadly riot in Smyrna.The 2018 budget includes funding for new correctional officer positions, raises for officers, including a 22-percent increase in starting officer pay, as well as $2 million for new cameras at James T. Vaughn Correctional Institution and $1.3 million in new equipment and training.

That these two elements received extra attention this budget are not surprising, but it’s also important to note the connection between an increase in the state’s addiction problem and a need to improve the situations for correction officers. It is all connected.