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Last Updated:3/31/00
Speech by Rep. Ciro Rodriguez (D-Texas), March 29, 2000
Mr. RODRIGUEZ. Mr. Chairman, I move to strike the requisite number of words. Let me, first of all, congratulate the gentlewoman from California (Ms. Pelosi) for her amendment. I think it is important that we highlight the importance in terms of treatment. I think we all recognize from both sides of the aisle the importance of looking at both the supply and the demand. And as we do that, I think it is also critical for us to realize, at least from my perspective, I think I am the only one who is here who has ever had a caseload of 60 heroin addicts and I worked as a case worker.

And when I was working as a case worker, I just want to share with you the frustrations. It seemed like every election, whether it was a Republican or a Democrat, the DA would pick up a case load of heroin addicts that were selling probably enough to just fix themselves.

The reality is that we are not going after the ones that are really selling the items, and we are going after the little guy. If we look at our prisons, we find 70 percent of them are drug-related, a lot of them are black, Hispanic and poor white, but we look in terms of our professionals that are using the drugs out there, we are not doing enough to go after that professional, that individual, that is related to a Congressman, that individual that is an attorney, that individual that is out there, and we are not doing enough there.

What frustrates me is that we have even come up with now a report card on other nations, on how they rank. When are we going to come up with a report card on our own district attorneys, on our own communities? When are we going to hold them accountable?

If we ask the military to come up with a plan, they have come up with a plan, and this is a military plan; but when are we going to ask our own communities to come up with a plan? I think it is important that we recognize that this is a societal problem. It is a problem that America has.

And I can attest, unless we deal with it as a problem that exists within our society, we are not going to be able to make it happen.

Let me just share with my colleagues we have 6 million youngsters right now, 6 million kids on prescription drugs. When I practiced as a social worker, one of the things that we were told, and we used what we call the DSM for diagnostic assessments, that we should use the least restrictive diagnosis in dealing with youngsters.

That was that we do not give a serious diagnosis

unless we had to. We used to have what we called adjustment reaction. That was, if any kid got into difficulties, we used `adjustment reaction' and worked on it.

But when we first started to tie in the funding in mental health, when we tied funding to whether the person was going to get reimbursed, then we started giving more serious diagnosis to a lot our youngsters in this country, and we really need to watch that real closely.

We really need to investigate what we are doing in the area of mental health. A lot of our individuals that suffer from mental illness are some of the ones that are self-medicating themselves and getting involved in prescriptions and drugs, both the legal and illegal. I think we really need to go out there and try to do something in those areas.

In addition, if one looks at our media in terms of how it stresses a prescription coverage for any illness that one has, they will have a pill for it. So we really need to kind of look at it and really approach it in a comprehensive manner.

If we ask the military again to come up with a plan, we are going to get a military plan. I am going to be supportive of that. But I think that we also need to look at our backyards. We have to stop scapegoating other countries. We have an obligation in our backyards. We need to hold our own people accountable. We need to hold ourselves accountable. Part of that is treatment.

I want to share with my colleagues that, when I worked in the area of mental health in the city of San Antonio for what we call the major center, which was the community mental health center, now it is referred to by another name, we had two case workers that worked with adolescents. I was one of them. Two for a population of over a million. That, I can attest to my colleagues, has not increased.

We also need, not only in terms of those treatment approaches that vary, some will work with others, some will not, we need, yes, in some cases religious approaches that work with some addicts, others in terms of the methadone program; but we need a combination of all of those approaches.

One of the things that frustrate me is that people, especially adolescents, if they suffer from drug addiction, they are not going to come to see you. I can attest to that. You have to go out there and reach out. We need both a medical model and an outreach model or a social work model that goes out there after those youngsters and reaches out to them.

The other frustrating thing that we have, and I think that we are definitely not doing enough, is when it comes to our veterans, our veterans are suffering tremendously and a lot of them are abusing alcohol and substance abuse. We need to do more in that area.

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