Same old addictions situation

Jessica Naomi Jones is missing.

Jessica Naomi Jones is missing, and her car has been found, and her wallet has been found, and her keys and purse and credit cards have been found. But she is still vanished, her footsteps grown faint somewhere on Furby Street and from there, untraceable.

Oh God, may she be found, safe and close as possible to sound.

While we wait and hold our breath in empathy for a family that likely cannot breathe, we occupy our time with this: however this story ends, it didn’t have to begin this way. Jessica Naomi Jones might have been somewhere safe.

Jones said her daughter was often drunk and would go out, get picked up by police and spend the night at the Main Street Project. After the last episode, she took Jessica for assessment at the HSC. She was hoping Jessica would be admitted to the hospital’s psychiatric unit but after four days she was discharged without a plan.

Oh, this old story again.

Look, this is the bottom line: trace almost every sickness of our society back to whence it came, and you find an addiction. Behind so many daughters missing and so many daughters beaten; behind so many shootings, and stabbings, and the crossfire; behind the shocking crashes; behind the decay; behind the trauma that spreads from generation to generation; and the poverty; and all the pain.

That this affects all of us, every day, is not up for debate. Every street you can’t walk down, because you’re scared it isn’t safe; every emergency room straining to cope with the human devastation of addiction; every justice department overburdened by call after call and case after case.

And yet, we let it happen.

We let it happen by refusing to hold elected bodies to account. We let it happen by allowing them to get away without a focused and transparent plan. “Addictions funding” barely merits a mention in Manitoban elections, despite the fact it is our most daunting and deeply entrenched challenge.

Imagine if the government made a bold declaration, and backed it up with data. Imagine they set specific deliverable targets: number of clients who completed an addictions program, for instance. Short wait times for beds at treatment centers. Target reduction in the estimated number of people living with addictions. Improve rural outreach. Open up the provincial wallet and let’s get this job done.

Now imagine they put all those targets, and all that data up on a website and let the public track it, ask questions, give suggestions, and publicly report issues accessing addictions support systems. Transparency, accountability and investment in tackling the most vicious stalker of our streets. Is that so obscene of a vision?

Because oh, we’re just barely treading water, now.

Privately, addictions health staff will whisper their exhaustion, their tales of politicized appointments and never getting all the things they need. Rarely will they go on the record: such is the way of things in Manitoba, where the pond is so small it feels mighty dangerous to wake the bigger fish.

At some point, the public needs to pick up this torch, and carry it straight to the steps of the Legislature.

In the long run, it will save us money: numerous studies have found that funding for addictions treatment results in a net savings for governments by money not spent on crisis health care, social services, law enforcement and justice costs. Addictions are expensive to treat; they are far more expensive to let fester.

More than that: if we threw everything we had into minimizing addictions, then maybe Jessica Naomi Jones would not be missing. And maybe the next woman who vanishes into the night will not go missing, and maybe the next child slain in the street over a fistful of drug money would still be in school.

The only thing obscene about the idea, is that we — the people who allow the parties to get away with political platforms — haven’t demanded it be done.

Feh. I realize this is mostly unformed thought. It’s just so frustrating.