I don’t know how to be a campaign manager.

I have so many jobs already. My actual job is working as an emergency physician at Roanoke Memorial Hospital. It’s hard, challenging work, but I love it. And, of course, I’m a wife, mother to my four children, home chef, Sunday school teacher ...

But campaign manager for my husband James?

I have spent so many nights sitting on my porch with James, despairing over the opioid epidemic. I hate seeing young people come in to my emergency department dead from overdose. It’s awful. You’re not supposed to come in dead at 31. As an attorney, James sees how much power addiction has to draw his clients back into crime. He sees them end up in jail without an opportunity to actually receive treatment for their addiction.

That used to be all we did – despair. But, my eyes have been opened. At first, I wasn’t that excited about medication-assisted therapy (MAT). But then, I looked at the studies. The chance of success without medication is less than 20%. That’s horrible. With MAT it’s 80%. That kind of effect is unheard of in medicine. I had no idea.

Now, I don’t have to despair. I can offer treatment. I can evaluate patients in the ER at Roanoke Memorial, give them three days of MAT, and get them into a clinic that specializes in opioid abuse treatment – complete with psychiatrists, case managers and counseling. That’s amazing. I can actually offer help to people who are begging for a way out.

The legal system needs to embrace our new understanding of how to treat this problem. Yes, substance abuse is a crime, and the government punishes crime. But it is also a disease that we have treatment for. Just putting people in jail doesn’t address the underlying addiction – it is costly and ineffective.

I’m campaign manager for my husband, James Steele, because we know Roanoke can be safer and better. I will talk to everyone I can and beg them to vote on November 5. Vote James Steele for Commonwealth Attorney on November 5.

KATIE STEELE, M.D.

ROANOKE

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