Kevin Doyle Column: Virginia Should Reform Barrier Crime Laws | Chroniclers

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By Kevin Doyle

Over the past few decades, many groups, from the World Health Organization to the American Medical Association to the American Psychiatric Association, have categorized addiction as the medical condition in question. And yet, in many instances, the Commonwealth of Virginia continues to prevent people in stable, long-term recovery from becoming full members of society: Virginia’s so-called barrier crime laws treat them as unworthy of a job.

This is particularly problematic for the behavioral health community, which for many years relied on recovering people as a significant part of its workforce.

During my 35-year career at addiction treatment facilities in Virginia, I had the privilege of working alongside dozens of talented and passionate people in recovery – many of whom were ready to start at the bottom of the line. employment ladder, working weekends and night shifts as they received additional training and education to enable them to move into positions with more responsibility. Recovery alone does not qualify an individual to do this important work, but gaining experience and training, combined with personal experience, can lead to a powerful treatment professional.

The problem is – because of their substance use disorders and the way in which substance use has been criminalized – these recovering people are often barred from working in a wide variety of public places due to laws that may be well intentioned but are far too broad and often discriminatory. While it may make sense to prevent people who have committed violent crimes, especially in their recent past, from entering healthcare, the list of barrier crimes is much longer and should be reduced to those necessary to protect public safety.


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