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“The Disease of Addiction: Why Are We Here?” presented by Ward Blanchard, MA, MBA, CCS, LCAS, Founder & CEO of The Blanchard Institute.

When referring to the opioid epidemic in 2015—the United States Surgeon General declared that “we were in the worst public health care crisis the nation had ever seen.” That year, approximately 35,000 American lives were lost to the opioid epidemic. Yet, in 2017, over 3 years after making such a declaration, our country lost 65,000 American lives to just the opioid epidemic; which is more American lives that were lost in the entire Vietnam War. What we are doing as a society, health care system, and legal system is NOT working. The opioid epidemic, prescription drug plague, marijuana legalization, alcoholism indifference, and other illicit drug addictions scourge our country with an addiction pandemic. Likewise, mental illness exacerbates the problem. Individuals suffering from Substance Use Disorders (SUDs) and Mental illnesses fill our streets, jails, prisons, and courtrooms because of our own lack of understanding, lack of education, lack of resources and lack of empathy. We are failing as a country and legal system, yet—we have access to the solutions. The most modern neuroscience data and evidence-based treatment modalities provide solutions and effective treatment to suffering individuals. These people can get better. Many of these mentally ill and addicted individuals are not “bad people, trying to get good”—they are just sick people that need treatment. Our society cannot incarcerate our way out of this epidemic. Continuing to lock our way out of this crisis cost too many lives, too much money, and too much time—with no results. However, we can practice and treat our way to better outcomes—and the legal system has the power to be the system that leads our society out of the darkness of this mental health epidemic that impacts millions of individuals and families. Let’s be that solution.