Dr. Varnell ends his thoughtful letter to the editor ("How do we help the mentally ill?") with this question: "How do you help the person who does not see he/she has a problem?"
Here is an equally important question that extends Dr. Varnell's concerns to include people who are chemically dependent: How do we help people who do recognize they have a problem but who cannot find the resources they need to get well?
This question shifts the focus from the frustration experienced by caring professionals who want to help to the desperation experienced by those who encounter obstacles that prevent them from getting help.
I am a member of the Family Support Group run by Trilogy Recovery Community, a grassroots, non-profit group dedicated to providing recovery support services for youth and families.
In the group we find support, advice and the solace of knowing we are not alone. We tell similar stories of encountering difficulties getting effective help for our children, many of whom suffer from co-occurring addiction and mental health problems.
Doctors have told us they don't treat addicts, counselors have insisted that our children's drug use is just a symptom of an underlying behavioral disorder or mental health problem, and insurance companies have limited coverage to a fraction of the cost of treatment. Every one of us has searched for good local treatment options -- counseling, support groups, youth AA/NA groups, recovery support services -- and found them severely lacking.
Many of our children have willingly gone to treatment and embraced recovery but once they return to the community, they have little or no support to help them stay clean and sober. With a youth culture awash in drugs -- 29 percent of 12th graders in Walla Walla (compared to 24 percent statewide) and 11 percent of 8th-graders (vs. 9 percent statewide) have used illegal drugs in the past 30 days -- their chances of being able to stay clean and sober without ongoing recovery support services are practically nil.
Substance use/misuse/addiction costs our country more than $500 billion annually and is responsible for more than 30 percent of deaths in 15-24 year olds. Before more kids die, and more families are destroyed, let's work together to find an answer to this question: How can we remove existing barriers and offer comprehensive services to those who desperately need -- and want -- help?