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Jeb Bladine: A mixed response to drugs and crime

Last week, staff writer Tom Henderson produced a powerful story about the ravages of drug addiction and current threats to funding for drug treatment programs. Oregon legislators, one source said, “understand they can’t punish their way out of a drug epidemic.”

In an upcoming issue, Henderson will delve deeper into that world of shattered lives and devastated families. That report will include interviews from mothers of drug addicts, providing a more personal side to the drug plague that permeates our community and plunders young (and older) minds.

Families and friends experience the mental and physical transformation of loved ones whose lives are hijacked by powerful drugs. They recognize that the drugs are not simply habit-forming, but actually alter brain functions controlling judgment and decision-making.

Others also feel empathy for addiction, but that feeling can fade in the bright light of real-life stories about drugs and crime.

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Jeb Bladine is president and publisher of the News-Register.

> See his column

A month ago, after a 25-mile, high-speed law enforcement chase through Yamhill County, Wyatt Duck, 21, moved into the Yamhill County Jail. Duck’s multi-year record includes possession and delivery of methamphetamine, and attempts to elude law enforcement.

A week ago, younger brother Brenden James Duck, 19, was lodged in Polk County Jail to await judgment on alleged crimes that could send him to prison for a long time. Those charges include unauthorized use of a vehicle, possession of methamphetamine, felony hit-and-run and criminally negligent homicide.

The hit-and-run incident killed motorcyclist James Rudolph Osredkar, 43, of Sheridan.

One of three young women initially called “persons of interest” in the case could be the poster-child for a campaign supporting early-intervention drug programs. Ten years ago, she was a middle schooler showing lambs at the Oregon State Fair. “When she’s not taking care of her animals,” we wrote about her in 2007, “she also participates in 4-H home economics classes. She cooks, sews and scrapbooks.”

Since 2015, the woman has suffered a series of convictions related to methamphetamines. Our March 3 public record report said simply, “Drug Court violation; booked into the Yamhill County Jail without bail.”

When the stories of drug use and abuse become more personal, the sympathy and empathy begin to return. We still can’t ignore rampant criminal behavior, but we can recognize that people with valued lives are themselves the victims of opioids, meth and other powerful drugs.

Perhaps, by better understanding their problems, we can discover better solutions.

Jeb Bladine can be reached at jbladine@newsregister.com or 503-687-1223.

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