[Noozhawk’s note: This article is part of Day 7 in Noozhawk’s 12-day, six-week special investigative series, Prescription for Abuse. Related links are below.]
Name: Kevin Smith
Location: Santa Barbara
Role: Addiction recovery worker
After being addicted to heroin and alcohol for 26 years, Kevin Smith has spent the last 19 years of his life sober, and helping those in Santa Barbara County battle the same demons he faced two decades before.
Shortly after completing treatment in 1993, Smith utilized his new sobriety by working with the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, whose mission is to build a safer, healthier community by preventing and treating alcoholism and drug abuse.
In 1994, Smith helped initiate a mock drug court in Santa Barbara County in an effort to help addicts and abusers stay on a treatment course.
“In the mock court we take those in detox and place them in front of a judge and tell them they have to do their treatment,” said Smith. “We found that the mock court has about a 50 percent success rate.”
Today, Smith works at Zona Seca, where he serves as director of the nonprofit organization’s Youth and Family Treatment program and supervises its criminal justice program’s policies and procedures.
“Zona Seca helps an individual get into recovery, and by doing that it helps bring families together, and makes our community a safer place to live again,” Smith told Noozhawk.
Working with juveniles, Smith said he has witnessed a shifting trend in the types of substances that adolescences are abusing. While alcohol and marijuana abuse are most popular among teenagers, Smith said there has been a spike in the number of adolescents in treatment for prescription medications.
“The youth will steal prescription drugs from their parents,” Smith said. “But there are more and more people getting prescriptions. I’m not saying anything bad about our doctors, but they prescribe for conditions. If someone is having a little stress in their life, they are given a benzodiazepine. We need to talk to parents about locking up their medication.”
Along with working with juveniles in recovery, part of Smith’s responsibilities includes coordinating with the county court system to ensure that patients are on the right track to rehabilitation.
“I go in an hour before court and talk about each client’s progress,” Smith said. “I work as part of a treatment team consisting of the judge, public defender, district attorney and probation. I focus on treatment and then we do a casing to see if someone is doing well. They are given incentives to do well and there are consequences if they aren’t doing so well.”
But as the state of California faces continued budget deficits and widespread spending cuts, Smith is concerned about the future of funding for organizations like Zona Seca and its treatment work and the mock trial program. He says budget cuts in Santa Barbara County could have a significant negative impact.
“Because we’re going through such a recession, we’re having less funding for treatments,” Smith said. “And at the same time I think there are about 33,000 people being released early from prison, and the majority of them have substance abuse issues. We’re looking at some very heavy times without funding.”