Re: “Portland police to offer drug users a link to treatment” (Dec. 2):

Kudos to the Portland Police Department for taking the initiative to give addicts the help they need instead of burying them behind bars. Addiction is a disease with multiple root causes from which people do recover and live happy, healthy, productive lives.

No one ever got better from heart disease or diabetes by sitting in a jail cell. The same can be said for addiction. Yes, like most chronic diseases, there are things we can all do to prevent getting sick. For addiction, the No. 1 recommendation is to not start, especially if you are young. An overwhelming number of those suffering with addiction will tell you they started as teens.

Young people and people in recovery are bombarded by a society that places a high value on drinking and pharmacology. “Can I get you a beer?” “Wanna meet for drinks?” “Here’s a little something for the pain.” There are endless movie, advertising and music mentions glorifying substance use.

For the uninitiated or those trying to abstain, our culture makes sobriety a challenge. To add insult to injury, we then often marginalize and criminalize those among us who become addicted instead of helping them with the ongoing support that they need.

Insurance companies and Medicaid pay for blood thinners and insulin to treat heart disease and diabetes and often support access to gyms and doctors to monitor a patient’s progress. Few among us give this a second thought.

It says something about us when it is law enforcement that takes the lead in a program to provide addicts with access to services they need to get and stay well. Even more, it says something about their compassion for those they are sworn to protect and to serve. For that, we are truly grateful.

Jo Morrissey

program manager, 21 Reasons