National Council for Behavioral Health President and CEO Chuck Ingoglia today released the following statement in response to the conclusion of the trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, on trial for the death of George Floyd:
“The actions of Derek Chauvin have fueled concerns over systemic racism in the U.S. and the way officers in communities across the nation engage with people of color.
“The trial of Mr. Chauvin, charged with the death of George Floyd, also exposed our nation’s failure to understand substance use disorders. Mr. Floyd’s girlfriend, Courteney Ross, described the couple’s challenges with drugs when she took the stand for the prosecution.
“Mr. Floyd was not on trial, yet Mr. Chauvin’s defense team then repeatedly used the testimony about his drug use to characterize George Floyd as a monster. His drug use was not the crime.
“Mr. Floyd and Ms. Ross are among the millions of Americans who have become addicted to opioids. The trail of opioid misuse, dependence and addiction have fueled the nation’s overdose crisis and left a trail of victims.
“It is vital to change the narrative when discussing substance use disorders. The way we talk about substance use in this country often reflects our moral and intellectual shortcomings. After years of battling the overdose epidemic in America, we should know better.
“We should understand addiction is a disease. We must eliminate the stigma surrounding substance use disorders. And one of the greatest barriers is our stunning absence of compassion for people with substance use disorders.
“While many people who use drugs face stigma, people of color who use drugs are unfairly vilified, like George Floyd was during the trial of Derek Chauvin. It is a glaring example of racism.
“We must do better. We must treat substance use disorders as a treatable disease. We must recognize that people with this chronic illness are not monsters and everyone deserves access to treatment and the opportunity to achieve wellbeing.”
About the National Council for Behavioral Health
The National Council for Behavioral Health is the unifying voice of America’s health care organizations that deliver mental health and addictions treatment and services. Together with our 3,326 member organizations serving over 10 million adults, children and families living with mental illnesses and addictions, the National Council is committed to all Americans having access to comprehensive, high-quality care that affords every opportunity for recovery. The National Council introduced Mental Health First Aid USA and 2.5 million Americans have been trained.