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Charlotte Amalie
Saturday, August 20, 2022
HomeNewsArchivesTHE VILLAGE MAY CLOSE; CAN WE AFFORD IT?

THE VILLAGE MAY CLOSE; CAN WE AFFORD IT?

Start with the premise that drug addiction is a progressive disease; left untreated, it generally gets worse.
If you accept this premise, then go one step further and realize that for treatment to work, it must be readily available, accessible and affordable.
It is critical that we understand the economics of treatment. Untreated drug addicts cost us plenty in many obvious and not so obvious ways, including:
— Welfare payments to cover the costs of raising children with only one parent.
— Foster care for others whose parents are unable to care for them, and the cost of the attorney's fees, both in government and from the private sector (plus the expert witnesses and social workers), to conduct child custody hearings in court, sometimes several a year for the same child.
— Lost productivity or accidents at work.
— Loss of skilled staff from businesses and the subsequent costly rehiring and retraining of new staff.
— High, generally unpaid, countless emergency room bills or hospital care for complications arising out of drug abuse.
— Untold thousands stolen from individuals and businesses through burglaries and robberies, embezzlement and employee theft, to get the money to maintain his or her daily high.
— Incarceration at a minimum cost of $25,000 per year of the few prosecuted, and the money to prosecute them.
— Untold pain, suffering and emotional damage caused to children and families whose lives are innocently intertwined with those who use drugs.
Don't get me wrong, I am not for sending big-time drug dealers into treatment nor am I soft on criminals, but many drug addicts and small-time street dealers, those who are also addicted to drugs, need treatment. No matter how good law enforcement efforts at stopping drugs from coming into the Virgin Islands, importation will continue unabated if the demand exists.
Recently, I visited The Village in St. Croix with Guillermo Gil, the Puerto Rico/U.S. Virgin Islands chair of the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area and U.S. attorney for Puerto Rico; James Hurd, U.S. attorney for the Virgin Islands; and Jose Alvarez, HIDTA director. We were very impressed with what they are doing, but we left seriously concerned about The Village's future existence due to money woes. (HIDTA, due to legal constraints, cannot fund treatment programs, but we will attempt to do whatever we can to advocate for them.)
Which brings me to a sore point, the apparent inadequate understanding in the Virgin Islands of how The Village on St. Croix is tied to our future well-being.
Until and unless we get more drug treatment facilities in the Virgin Islands, we all must find ways to try to ensure that the one we do have, The Village, remains open and funded.
The Village, particularly the unique Women and Children Program, is in urgent need of $60,000 to cover its operating expenses from March through September, I am told. Without a quick infusion of these funds, all of the eight women and their nine children in residence may be put back into the community before they have developed the strength to potentially remain drug free.
A potentially devastating wrong move on their ejected mother's part (in resuming drug use) can affect these children, and their children, for years to come. Can we afford it? Think about it….
Did you know that The Village, in its male residential component, is only running at half its capacity? Why? Again because of a scarcity of money. It has not even been paid for the last nine months for the services rendered to this small group of recovering addicts from its major funding source, the V.I. government.
There are just not enough revenues coming in to the Village, I am told, to keep pace with all of the myriad needs of the Virgin Islands. What if they close? Can we afford it? Think about it….
Essentially, The Village is the only residential treatment center for those who have had contact with the court system (generally court-ordered for treatment) or who cannot afford the expensive demands of off-island care. Incidentally, many insurance policies, including those of the V.I. government, pay for no more than 50 percent of the cost associated with inpatient residential care. With the low end of residential treatment costing upward of $20,000 per stay, it remains out of reach for many.
We need to think clearly about the economic losses, the emotional pain and the costly impact of welfare, foster care and jail before we stand by and let The Village close its doors. Can we afford it? Think about it…
Editor's note: Catherine L. Mills of St. Thomas, a former Human Services commissioner, holds a master's degree in social work. She is now deputy director of the Puerto Rico/U.S. Virgin Islands High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA). You can e-mail comments to her at source@viaccess.net on the articles she writes or topics you would like to see covered.

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Start with the premise that drug addiction is a progressive disease; left untreated, it generally gets worse.
If you accept this premise, then go one step further and realize that for treatment to work, it must be readily available, accessible and affordable.
It is critical that we understand the economics of treatment. Untreated drug addicts cost us plenty in many obvious and not so obvious ways, including:
-- Welfare payments to cover the costs of raising children with only one parent.
-- Foster care for others whose parents are unable to care for them, and the cost of the attorney's fees, both in government and from the private sector (plus the expert witnesses and social workers), to conduct child custody hearings in court, sometimes several a year for the same child.
-- Lost productivity or accidents at work.
-- Loss of skilled staff from businesses and the subsequent costly rehiring and retraining of new staff.
-- High, generally unpaid, countless emergency room bills or hospital care for complications arising out of drug abuse.
-- Untold thousands stolen from individuals and businesses through burglaries and robberies, embezzlement and employee theft, to get the money to maintain his or her daily high.
-- Incarceration at a minimum cost of $25,000 per year of the few prosecuted, and the money to prosecute them.
-- Untold pain, suffering and emotional damage caused to children and families whose lives are innocently intertwined with those who use drugs.
Don't get me wrong, I am not for sending big-time drug dealers into treatment nor am I soft on criminals, but many drug addicts and small-time street dealers, those who are also addicted to drugs, need treatment. No matter how good law enforcement efforts at stopping drugs from coming into the Virgin Islands, importation will continue unabated if the demand exists.
Recently, I visited The Village in St. Croix with Guillermo Gil, the Puerto Rico/U.S. Virgin Islands chair of the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area and U.S. attorney for Puerto Rico; James Hurd, U.S. attorney for the Virgin Islands; and Jose Alvarez, HIDTA director. We were very impressed with what they are doing, but we left seriously concerned about The Village's future existence due to money woes. (HIDTA, due to legal constraints, cannot fund treatment programs, but we will attempt to do whatever we can to advocate for them.)
Which brings me to a sore point, the apparent inadequate understanding in the Virgin Islands of how The Village on St. Croix is tied to our future well-being.
Until and unless we get more drug treatment facilities in the Virgin Islands, we all must find ways to try to ensure that the one we do have, The Village, remains open and funded.
The Village, particularly the unique Women and Children Program, is in urgent need of $60,000 to cover its operating expenses from March through September, I am told. Without a quick infusion of these funds, all of the eight women and their nine children in residence may be put back into the community before they have developed the strength to potentially remain drug free.
A potentially devastating wrong move on their ejected mother's part (in resuming drug use) can affect these children, and their children, for years to come. Can we afford it? Think about it....
Did you know that The Village, in its male residential component, is only running at half its capacity? Why? Again because of a scarcity of money. It has not even been paid for the last nine months for the services rendered to this small group of recovering addicts from its major funding source, the V.I. government.
There are just not enough revenues coming in to the Village, I am told, to keep pace with all of the myriad needs of the Virgin Islands. What if they close? Can we afford it? Think about it....
Essentially, The Village is the only residential treatment center for those who have had contact with the court system (generally court-ordered for treatment) or who cannot afford the expensive demands of off-island care. Incidentally, many insurance policies, including those of the V.I. government, pay for no more than 50 percent of the cost associated with inpatient residential care. With the low end of residential treatment costing upward of $20,000 per stay, it remains out of reach for many.
We need to think clearly about the economic losses, the emotional pain and the costly impact of welfare, foster care and jail before we stand by and let The Village close its doors. Can we afford it? Think about it...
Editor's note: Catherine L. Mills of St. Thomas, a former Human Services commissioner, holds a master's degree in social work. She is now deputy director of the Puerto Rico/U.S. Virgin Islands High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA). You can e-mail comments to her at source@viaccess.net on the articles she writes or topics you would like to see covered.