We should all be in favor of increasing access to drug treatment instead of locking up addicts. Yet, despite near unanimity on that point, as a society we seem to be stuck pouring massive resources into arresting, prosecuting and locking up drug offenders instead of increasing funding for treatment.

At least we’re beginning to recognize that the people who need help are part of our community — our family members, our friends. Kudos to Winston-Salem for coming together on Tuesday evening, even if in a small way, to increase treatment options. And by Winston-Salem, I mean city council, the Gateway YWCA and the West Salem neighborhood.

The YWCA came before city council with a rezoning request to allow Hawley House, a women’s substance abuse residential recovery facility in West Salem, to increase from six to 10 beds. Incredibly, not one neighbor appeared before city council arguing that it would undermine their property values or put their families’ safety at risk. And the West Salem Neighborhood Association, which has maintained a rocky relationship with a free needle exchange at a local church, even came out in support of the rezoning request.

“The increase in the opioid epidemic and the number of phone calls that we get, we just have had a tremendous amount of disappointment to those women that are really trying to seek help,” Director Kristin O’Leary told city council. “I have another program called Project New Start, where I go in the Forsyth County Detention Center and do a Bible study with the ladies in the jail. And a lot of those women are in jail for a drug-related crime, and would like an opportunity to come to the Hawley House as well.” She added that the women will be able to take advantage of an abbreviated version of Hawley House’s regular 9-12-month residential program.

City council members are usually loath to go against neighborhood associations in their wards, so South Ward Councilman John Larson must have taken pleasure in talking up Hawley House.

“We hear a lot in this city of concerns of, ‘We don’t want it in my neighborhood.’these various programs that are designed to assist clients, people in need, special needs,” he said. “And everybody gets concerned: ‘They’re gonna come in my neighborhood, devalue property, they’re gonna bring in crime, they’re gonna do all these things.’ And I think Hawley House is an example of how an organization such as yours works within the neighborhood fabric, is a contributing element, and has in fact has strengthened the diversity of neighborhood, providing a valuable service for the community.”

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