(WASHINGTON) -- Actor Martin Sheen advocated Tuesday on behalf of drug courts on Capitol Hill, urging Congress to maintain funding for the rehabilitation program.
Drug courts combine substance abuse treatment with close judicial supervision in lieu of serving jail time. There are more than 2500 drug courts nationwide, and nearly 120,000 Americans a year receive help from the programs. Sheen and others are asking Congress to fund drug courts at a minimum of $88.7 million for FY2012.
"My first exposure to drug court began nearly 20 years ago. It opened my eyes to the incredible capacity of human beings to change,” Sheen said at a hearing before a Senate Judiciary subcommittee. “I’ve seen individuals mired in the depth of addiction, transformed by drug courts. I’ve seen families reunited after the years of estrangement due to a loved one’s substance abuse.”
“These miracles happen every day in drug court and I believe that this country’s greatest untapped resource is our addicted population,” Sheen said. “Imagine for a moment the impact we could have if drug courts were available to all 1.2 million addicted individuals who would be best served by drug courts if one were available. Imagine the impact of 1.2 million people making up for lost time in their community and serving their families and their country.”
In 1996, Sheen helped create a drug court system, called “Options,” in Berkeley, Calif., which focused on the homeless and addicted. “Options” opened a treatment center and one sober living house, which has now expanded to six sober living houses, all run by drug court graduates.
Sheen also stressed the importance of opening drug court and treatment centers for the nation’s veterans. Today, there are 80 veteran treatment courts and more than 100 planned.
“We ask so much of our men and women in uniform, and they ask so little in return. In fact, they are often the last to ask for counseling or treatment. It is our duty to care for our veterans when they suffer as a direct result of their service to our country,” Sheen said.
“Frankly, there’s no better investment this Congress can make than drug courts and veterans courts. The time has come to reap the staggering social and economic benefits of expanding this proven budget solution.”
Sheen, who has suffered substance addiction issues in the past, has also witnessed the trauma of alcohol and drug addiction over the years through his son Charlie's public struggles. Charlie Sheen insists he is clean and sober, after reportedly deciding to kick a drug-abusing lifestyle that led to his being fired from Two and a Half Men.
Though silent on the topic Tuesday, Sheen addressed Charlie’s battle with drugs and alcohol earlier this year, calling his son “emotionally crippled.”
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