Democratic presidential candidate and South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg released a plan on Friday that would decriminalize the possession of all drugs as a way to address the nation’s opioid crisis and improve mental health care. Under his plan, titled “Healing and Belonging in America: A Plan to Improve Mental Health Care and Combat Addiction,” a Buttigieg administration would seek in its first term to treat addiction and the opioid epidemic as public health problems instead of criminal justice issues.
“To ensure that people with a mental illness or substance use disorder can heal, we will decriminalize these conditions,” the plan reads. “When someone is undergoing a crisis or is caught using a drug, they should be treated by a health professional rather than punished in a jail cell.”
Buttigieg’s plan also includes criminal justice reforms such as reducing prison sentences for other drug offenses, expunging convictions for past drug possession offenses, and retroactively reducing the sentences for offenders currently in prison. By taking these and other measures, Buttigieg hopes to reduce the number of people incarcerated due to mental illness and drug addiction by 75 percent in his first term.
Addressing the Opioid Crisis
The proposal notes the