Imagine a tree, covered with thorns. It is growing next to your house. At first it is small, but as it begins to grow, its roots dig deep into the soil. As the tendrils reach deeper, they begin to invade your home. They stretch into tiny cracks in the foundation, wrap around plumbing pipes and sever buried electrical systems. This tree, originally small and unobtrusive, now threatens the entire foundation and well-being of your home. It is pervasive entangling, a continual and detrimental interweaving of two systems. Now hold that thought.
I received a call from my sister this morning. She was overwhelmed and frustrated as the school year comes to an end and what it signified. You see, my sister is an elementary guidance counselor at a rural school district in western Pennsylvania, just north of Pittsburgh. She told me this particular year has been the most difficult she has every experienced. A growing endemic has been forcing an unprecedented number of children into foster care: the burgeoning addiction rates of opiates. She said she has never seen this level of suffering in her 25 years in the schools.
I have been experiencing the opiate epidemic from my side, getting addicts into treatment to stop the suffering. But her call spurred my mind to consider of the new reality in our communities being devastated by addiction. Our foster care system is under near-breaking pressure from the weight of parents stuck in the void of addiction, and the children left in their wake. While local governments work to provide aid and support for the unfortunate children of addicts, it puts immense strain on the system to not only protect those in foster care, but also help addicts on the long path to recovery.
Think back to the tree. This drug epidemic is not just a small issue. It is an insidious system of trauma. Its roots are beginning to pervasively entangle and crumble the veritable foundation of our public home. The impact of growing addiction rates (and the collateral damage it causes) will continue to affect our social and human services for years & generations to come, requiring financial solutions and increasing strain on crucial systems. We have a massive burden on ourselves, and we need to start finding solutions.