09/05/13 — Lives in spiral: For families' sake, drug abusers need an incentive to get help

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Lives in spiral: For families' sake, drug abusers need an incentive to get help

There are probably more than a few reasons why Gov. Pat McCrory decided to veto new rules that would require drug testing for those receiving welfare payments or other government assistance.

And some of them likely involve politics and timing.

He says there are flaws in the legislation and that there are better ways to make such a requirement a reality.

OK, that might be true.

But setting the semantics aside, let's talk about the premise.

Should we require drug testing of those who are receiving state-sponsored aid?

There are downsides, sure.

There are people whose own personal failings will hurt their families -- children already struggling because of their parents' bad choices.

These adults already can't get jobs -- because most of them require such tests and background checks.

So without the possibility of aid, where does that leave them?

And what is the result for the community around them?

Crime, unemployment, poverty and children caught in the same dangerous spiral -- they are likely the results.

That is the reality that must be weighed whenever a decision like this is made -- no matter how logical it might seem.

But there is another reality, too. There has to be some push, some incentive to get those who are drug abusers to get the help they need.

And for the same reason -- their families.

Truth is that the primary goal should be to push these people into rehabilitation -- to get the help they need so they can take care of their families and live lives that are full of joy and possibilities, not hopelessness and addiction.

And if failing a drug test -- and being required to get assistance to beat the addiction -- saves their life, isn't it worth it?

There is this silly idea that the Republicans in the statehouse have a disdain for those who are struggling.

And maybe some do. Just as there are some Democrats who prefer constituencies that thrive on detailing how they have been wronged rather than advocating for the changes that will give them the chance to change their futures and those of their families.

Politics is politics. And it stinks either way.

But if our goal as a state is to spend less on social programs because there are fewer people who need social programs -- we have to start somewhere. We have to identify those who are not finding help any other way -- and to offer an incentive and support for them to get the help they need.

In reality, it should be the goal for any politician -- making a better life possible for the constituents they serve -- and it is the goal of every community organization that offers assistance to families to be a temporary fix.

So as we demand drug tests -- we need to invest money to provide the path to another choice.

That is how a decision addresses the real need and earns a sustainable result that benefits the individual, the community and the budget.

Let's hope the governor is already working with the leaders in the General Assembly to make that reality.

Published in Editorials on September 5, 2013 11:28 AM