Editor’s note: The League of Women Voters-East Central Mississippi posed the following question to Michael Grace and Kassie Coleman, candidates for district attorney for the 10th Circuit Court. Grace, a Democrat, will face Coleman, a Republican, in the Nov. 5 general election.
Describe your experience in working with law enforcement, the legal community, as well as medical and mental health providers to address the social, legal, medical and mental health needs of people with opioid addiction. Describe your plan, after taking office, to reduce availability of opioids and expand treatment resources for people with opioid addiction.
Michael Grace: The opioid crisis is ravaging rural America much the same way the crack cocaine epidemic devastated the African American community in the 80’s and 90’s. The policy of “Just Say No” has been ineffective in both cases and has communicated a message from the government to the people that addiction is something that can be overcome easily and is a moral problem instead of a medical one.
My professional experience has shown that drugs are everywhere and drug addiction is best handled through our medical system instead of our criminal justice system. Since opening up Grace Law Firm, PLLC in July 2013, I have been a prosecutor for the City of Quitman and for the Town of Enterprise, board attorney for Outreach Health Services, Inc., board attorney for Enterprise School District, a certified Guardian ad Litem and Juvenile Defender, court-appointed attorney for respondents in mental commitment hearings, a criminal defense attorney, and have handled various matters in Chancery Court.
As someone who has dealt with depression and anxiety since I was a teenager, I know firsthand about mental health. I also know about the available resources out there for people who have mental health and substance abuse problems I intend to utilize those resources in my pre-trial diversion program if I am elected to be the next District Attorney.
I will prosecute, to the fullest extent of the law, those responsible for the addiction crisis by over-prescribing opioids or selling illegal drugs. For those who are addicted and come through the criminal justice system for a non-violent crime, I will use drug court and pre-trial diversion to help them get the services they need when appropriate. I also intend to form an advisory panel comprised of local mental health and medical professionals to assist with developing a proactive versus reactive plan to target adolescent/young adult addiction due to the impact that has on the community and its resources.