Plattsburgh State is more than ready to adapt to the recent changes of how minor drug offenses are being treated in the United States and is ready to try to help solve a giant problem.
PSUC’s Alcohol and Other Drug Educator Janis Krug is the campuses main resource for situations involving drugs and addiction. Krug is responsible for a myriad of things that essentially break down into two separate categories: education and intervention.
“I try to stick to a 75 percent education to 25 percent intervention-type ratio,” Krug said.
The education aspect includes presenting to classes, educational initiatives and general outreach to the campus as a whole about the impact of alcohol and drugs and how they affect the body.
The intervention aspect involves more one-on-one time with students who are potentially struggling or at risk for addiction.
Krug meets with students who have been referred by a friend or staff member, who are required to see her as a result of student conduct violations, who have recently been transported to the hospital for alcohol over intoxication and recently, a much larger amount of students who are required to see her for marijuana-related conduct situations.
This increase in the amount of students referred due to marijuana-related conduct situations may potentially be an indicator for what has been going on at a national level: minor drug offenses being treated less like a criminal issue and more like a public health issue.
Icahn School of Medicine Professor of Psychiatry and Preventative Medicine Don Des Jarlais, spoke in an interview with CNN about the current system of penalizing those charged with possession. He said petty sale of drugs is not a solution, but rather contributing to a larger problem.
“We should not criminalize personal drug use and put users in prison,” Des Jarlais said. “We’ve known that for quite a while. There is mounting evidence that it is not a protective policy for dealing with individual drug users … it is not a cure and creates many social problems.”
Across multiple departments and offices, PSUC is putting all the steps in place to adjust to the changes being seen on a national level.
Krug said seeing more marijuana-related students for analysis and potential treatment suggestions is one example. In the past, these students would not typically have been referred to the AOD educator.
“I have been seeing an increased number of marijuana use-related students, and I think that represents the shift, in how these cases are being treated,” Krug said. “I also believe a large reason for this is because of the volume of cases. A lot of the courts cannot handle what they are seeing right now in terms of arrests for that.”
The nursing department is also closely affiliated with this topic.
PSUC junior nursing major Brian Berran said that he has taken multiple classes where they discuss addiction, and said the attitude his professors have is that drug users are seen patients first and not criminals, but proper legal precautions are still taken after necessary treatment is applied.
“We are taught in class that we treat the patient who comes in unbiasedly,” Berran said. “After they are treated, I believe there is paperwork to be filed and they may have to talk to the police, but treatment comes first.”
PSUC Student Health Center Director Kathleen Camelo said there are active discussions between professionals at PSUC regarding how policies may be changing and making the shift from criminal reprimanding to medical treatment for certain offenses.
“What we really want to see is how to help patients who are addicted, not hurt them,” Camelo said. “The real focus to fix the problem from a criminal justice side is to focus on the dealers, who are typically not users.”
Before a problem can be solved, it must be identified, and the way that PSUC plans to figure out how big the drug problem is on this campus is through the core survey.
Administered every two years, the core survey is an optional survey available to students which collects data on drug and alcohol use, student perceptions and tendencies at PSUC. Krug said once this data is compiled, the most important issues will be addressed.
PSUC officials are at the forefront in recognizing that changes are being made at national and state levels, and they are adapting at a local level to prepare. They are focusing on students who may potentially have issues regarding drug use and getting them the help they deserve.
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