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Prosecuting those struggling with addiction won’t do much good

January 15, 2018 – Addressing the disease of addiction and finding a life in recovery is possible. However, community leaders too often believe that punitive measures within the court system will help solve the drug crisis. Addiction experts encourage officials to consider a treatment-based approach to combat addiction.

A recent overdose death in Montgomery County highlights the disconnect between the law enforcement officers and the families of those struggling with addiction.

According to Slate, Gwendolyn Prebish, now 28, developed an addiction while also struggling with mental health disorders. Prebish’s mother Lisa recounted how Gwen was charged with a drug-induced homicide for providing Michael Pastorino with fentanyl that killed him.

Montgomery County District Attorney Kevin Steele has vowed to prosecute individuals who deliver drugs that result in death. However, Lisa and Pastorino’s mother Joan expressed doubt that prosecuting Gwen was the correct way of handling the matter:

“It’s a horrible fact that somebody died,” Lisa told me, apologizing for crying. But “she didn’t actually kill anybody … I feel like Gwen’s being prosecuted because she survived. Because she used the same thing that she gave him.”

Montgomery County District Attorney Kevin Steele sees things differently. Like a growing number of prosecutors nationwide, in response to fatal overdoses, he is charging the person who delivered the drugs, the purported “dealer” who is often also a fellow user, with a drug-homicide charge.

“You give a drug to someone and they die as a result of the drug, you are on the hook for drug delivery resulting in death,” Steele said in a statement after Prebish was charged. “Drug dealers need to know that they are killing people, and they will be held criminally responsible.”

Michael’s mother Joan doesn’t know how she feels about the prosecution and knows little about Gwendolyn: “Do I feel it’s fair? Yes and no. I’m in between … I don’t want to judge. It is what the law says it is.” But she also knows that prosecuting Gwendolyn won’t do much good—it certainly can’t bring her son back. “They’re using her as an example,” she said. “I don’t believe it’s going to change anything.”

Malvern Institute: We Give Hope

If you or a loved one are living with addiction, we can help. Learn about Malvern Intervention Services or the Malvern 90-Day Model by calling 610.MALVERN (610.625.8376).

Read the full story on Slate.

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