Last Updated on April 24, 2021 by Morris Green
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The vast majority of people convicted of a DWI never planned to get behind the wheel of a car while intoxicated. Yet nationally every year, over a million drivers are arrested for Driving While Impaired (DWI) or Under the Influence (DUI). Every year, over 10,000 people die from preventable, alcohol- and drug-related accidents. And every year, the economic cost to society from DWIs runs into the hundreds of billions of dollars.
Over the past 40 years, the advocacy of both national and local groups has helped lower the rate of alcohol-related accidents by as much as 20%. And yet alcohol and other drugs are still a factor in as many as 40% of all motor vehicle fatalities.
What this says is first that the outreach and awareness programs, as well as steps taken by law enforcement agencies, are having a positive effect on an issue that’s critical to our society. And second, it says that more still needs to be done.
At Absolute Advocacy, we provide an environment that is respectful, confidential, and supportive to people who may be struggling with substance use, and who have been convicted of a DWI. We have been a part of the advocacy against impaired driving since 2011, and believe that further improvements will come through increased community support and education, as well as advances in services and other resources.
Substance Use Disorders Cross Socioeconomic Boundaries
Popular portrayals of addiction on television and in the news show it afflicting mostly – or even only – the poor. While poverty does play a role in increasing the risk factors for a substance use disorder, they are in fact prevalent throughout our society, regardless of Socioeconomic Status (SES). With alcohol in particular, study after study has shown that high economic status is associated with increased consumption.
A substance use disorder isn’t a moral failure, and isn’t caused by socioeconomic factors. Rather, studies show that substance abuse occurs at the inflection point between the negative factors in a person’s life, and that person’s ability to cope with those factors in a healthy way.
These negative factors can begin in the womb, when a person can be exposed to substances even before they’re born. Growing up in neglectful or abusive homes, or being malnourished, can affect how a person develops and how well they handle stress throughout their life. During adolescence and even early adulthood, people learn how to cope with stress without the protection of their parents, and these years represent a time when negative coping mechanisms can develop or become more firmly established.
As adults, the stresses of careers and family life, as well as untreated mental health disorders, can also become risk factors.
As the emotional weight of risk factors such as these builds, the chance that a person will turn to substance use increases.
Poverty’s Disproportionate Effect
While anyone, regardless of socioeconomic status, can be affected by substance abuse disorder, many of the risk factors co-occur with poverty. At the same time, the burdens of the negative consequences of substance use disproportionately affect people in lower socioeconomic statuses.
Malnourishment can obviously be caused by a lack of food in the home. Neglect, however, can be caused by parents who are out of the house because they work multiple jobs and are doing their best to feed their family. And mental health disorders such as depression and anxiety are both more common in poor populations and, due to the lack of resources, less likely to be diagnosed or treated.
What’s more, once someone in poverty has developed a substance use disorder, they lack the social supports that their wealthier counterparts often still enjoy. For example, higher paying careers benefit from increased job security – which affords higher earners the time, flexibility, and other resources they need to seek treatment.
Poverty also makes it more difficult for people to receive diagnoses and treatments, seek basic services, and even get basic necessary healthcare. A 2014 study published in the International Journal of Epidemiology, to cite one example of many, found that lower socioeconomic status increased alcohol-related mortality by 66% for men and 78% for women.
Many relatively wealthy people will experience some of the same traumas as people in poverty. However, their wealth gives them access to the services and support that lower the risk factors of substance use, and aid their ability to cope.
Advancing Services Includes Online DWI Assessments and DWI Classes
From its stunning mountain vistas to its peaceful coastlines, North Carolina is an amazing state to live in. Aside from its natural beauty, North Carolina is also a great place to be for people who have medical needs. We are home to the Research Triangle – some of the nation’s best known medical schools and research centers.
More than that, the North Carolina medical board has guaranteed the ethical treatment of our state’s patients. In part, they have made it unethical for physicians to allow financial incentives or contractual ties of any kind to adversely affect patient care, and have made it the ethical duty of all health care professionals to foster respect for the profession as a means of ensuring good patient care.
For all of these reasons, we at Absolute Advocacy understood how we would be able to better serve our communities when, due to social distancing guidelines regarding COVID-19, North Carolina changed its policies to allow DWI Services to be obtained remotely.
COVID-19 is a serious threat to our community. But the benefits of using telehealth for DWI Assessments and Classes go even further than stopping the spread of this disease.
In North Carolina, being convicted of even the most minor DWI offense means having your license revoked for a full year. For many of our clients, aside from the embarrassment and costs of their situation, one of the most difficult challenges becomes transportation.
While we encourage everyone to follow the law and be safe, we’re also very aware of the facts. Nationally, fully 75% of people whose licenses are suspended continue to drive. And while drivers with suspended license make up a small percentage of the total number of drivers on the road, they are involved in 13% of our fatal accidents.
Transportation is one of those risk factors that disproportionately affect people in poverty. Public transportation is more frequent and reliable in wealthier neighborhoods. And wealthier people can more easily pay for taxis or Ubers, or find someone who can take the time off work to drive them to their appointments.
Providing remote DWI services not only helps prevent the spread of COVID-19, but also supports our clients in important ways that they have struggled with for decades. And it allows us to provide more ethical, and more compassionate, treatment and services.
While some of the costs associated with DWI Assessments and Classes are court mandated, others are lowered through remote services.
We’ve already talked about how on-line classes ease the burden of transportation. But transportation also costs money – money our clients save by taking advantage of our remote classes. And the longer our clients have to commute, the more they are helped by remote services. Time spent commuting to one of our facilities is time they can’t spend working, with their families, furthering their education, or anything else.
Childcare is another major challenge for many of our clients. Finding childcare can be both difficult and expensive in the best of times, but the restrictions that have come with COVID-19 have made it more so. Schools and daycares have been closed for months, and still have to meet quarantining guidelines after exposure to a positive case. This means that entire classrooms may at times be sent home to learn remotely, to prevent the spread of the disease.
By taking advantage of the telehealth services provided at Absolute Advocacy, our clients are freed from these burdens, and are more able to get the help they need.
Absolute Advocacy offers online DWI classes four days a week, at different times of the day, to help ensure that everybody who needs our services has access to them.
But more than that, clients don’t have to try to reschedule appointments they might ordinarily have had to cancel. If, for example, a client or their child is told to quarantine because of a close contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19, they would have to reschedule an in-person class, but can still make their telehealth appointments.
To register for our online DWI services, simply call us at (704) 215-4095, or fill out the contact form.
Supporting Our Communities Means Continuing Online DWI Services
Nobody plans to drive under the influence. Typically, it happens through a series of decisions, none of which seemed horrible or inexcusable at the time. Often, a person invited to a social event might think they aren’t going to drink, and so don’t need to plan on a way to get home safely. Once at the event, they may feel social pressure not only to drink, but to drink to excess. And later, they may feel encouraged by their friends to drive themselves home. Or, they may feel better able to drive than another, more inebriated, friend.
At Absolute Advocacy, our goal is to provide compassionate, respectful, supportive care, while still holding people accountable for their actions. The ability to provide remote, online services has helped us provide more ethical, compassionate treatment to our clients, at lower overall cost. It enables us to better serve our community by allowing us to better reach our clients where they are at, to serve more people across the community, and to eliminate many of the pain points associated with in-person services.
Many of these pain points disproportionately affect people in poverty, and at Absolute Advocacy we believe that remote services can play a key part in bridging the gap in providing support to these underserved communities.
At Absolute Advocacy, we are our clients’ greatest advocates. We understand that the situations that bring our clients to us are often not the thing they are most proud of. Most important in those moments is that our clients know they aren’t alone – that we are here for them – and that we are the help they need.
Substance use prevention and education are community matters. The millions of drivers who get behind the wheel each year while intoxicated affect our entire community. They cost our communities billions of dollars, and thousands of lives.
Solving these issues will take a community. And the shift in policy that has enabled us to provide online services due to COVID-19 has already helped us better reach and serve the members of our community – both our clients and the people they need to support them.
We encourage everyone who will benefit from remote services to use them while they’re available. And we ask that everyone who’s been affected by a substance use disorder – patients, family members, and victims – who believes remote services would better meet the community needs, to contact their local legislators and help them better understand the positive effect these online services will have.