Addictions, Drug & Alcohol Institute

Dr. Banta-Green on Northwest Now: “If you build the right care, people will show up.”

Caleb Banta-Green
Dr. Caleb Banta-Green

ADAI Principal Research Scientist Caleb Banta-Green, PhD appeared on Northwest Now (KBTC/PBS) this week to talk about COVID’s impacts on substance use and overdose; the importance of harm reduction approaches targeted toward those with severe patterns of use; and the Blake decision overturning the state’s criminal drug possession laws.

In terms of the Blake decision, when asked if getting rid of “the stick” of incarceration would reduce the motivation for people to stop using substances, Dr. Banta-Green said, “If you stepped back and as a society said, ‘We have substance use disorder, it’s a serious medical condition, and we want to figure out the most effective way to humanely get people into treatment,’ nobody would say it’s via incarceration. It’s not what we would say. There are historical reasons that that has happened, but that’s not the most effective way into treatment for sure.”

He continued, “[W]hat my team has done at the University of Washington, in partnership with others around the state, is that we have built on-demand, low-barrier care in community settings — at public health clinics, at syringe exchanges, at services for people who are unhoused. And when you build services that are evidence-based, that are on-demand, where your goal is […] is engagement and treating people well, people line up hours early to get it. If you build the right care, […] people will show up. You don’t need a stick.”