An editorial in Thursday’s Salem Evening News vilifies the parents of Bella Bond and the state Department of Children and Families for the tragic death of this two year old girl. However, the real cause of Bella’s death is not bad parents or an inadequate service system. Bella was the victim of the disease of addiction.
Both of Bella’s parents are noted as addicted to drugs and the men her mother brought into her life were addicts as well. Addiction causes people to make very bad decisions. It changes your values, impairs your cognitive abilities and turns you into someone that is very different from who you are sober.
Addiction kills people. It kills the people who use the drug, either quickly through an overdose or over time as it destroys your brain and other internal organs. It kills people in drunk driving accidents and it kills people in arguments that go much further than they would if people could think through solutions. It kills people when an addict tries to take something from someone to pay for drugs and it kills people who are never born because their addicted mother experiences a miscarriage.
Bella Bond died because the adults in her life were addicts themselves or pulled into the complex system that relies on lies, deceit and misdirection. An addict only has one goal: to obtain and use the drug of their choice. Everything else including jobs, relationships with others and raising children becomes secondary.
In addition to adequately funding and rebuilding the Department of Children and Families, two other systemic changes are necessary to prevent the deaths of anymore “Baby Does”. First, an adequate system of treatment must be built and maintained so that addicts can receive ongoing treatment for their disease. Second, training must be provided and implemented for professional counselors who work side by side with people from 12 Step programs to provide the treatment. Most professional training programs in social work and counseling psychology, the two main sources for professional staff in addiction treatment programs, do not require any coursework or training in substance use disorders or addiction in order to receive Masters degrees. Similarly, most Psychiatrists receive scant if any training in these subjects as well. Only three schools of higher education in the greater Boston area provide training that is accredited by NAADAC. The Association for Addiction Professionals.
Without this training, even professionally trained counselors will misdiagnosis substance use disorders or provide uninformed treatment that ultimately is not effective. We can do something about this or we can prepare ourselves for more deaths of both children and others.