Kathie Kane-Willis sees the government’s recent push to steer addicts to treatment rather than prison from a fairly unique perspective: not only is she a social researcher who specializes in issues of drug abuse, but she also struggled with a heroin addiction herself, the Chicago Tribune reported June 14.
At a June 12 drug-policy conference at Roosevelt University, Kane-Willis, 40, spoke of her downward spiral into a life of addiction and how she recovered after receiving treatment instead of a lengthy jail sentence — an advantage she said many addicts don’t have.
“I’m telling my story because I feel as though the tide is finally turning,” Kane-Willis told the packed meeting hall. “I hope and pray that I’m right about this feeling, that the war on drugs really might be coming to an end. This social-justice movement is gaining strength, and I want to add my voice, my story and my face to it.”
Kane-Willis began using heroin during her freshman year of college, and for two years battled her addiction as she moved from one state to the next. She said a brief jail stint in Los Angeles helped to not only get her sober, but also gave her life a purpose. Afterward she earned a master’s degree in sociology at Roosevelt University and works as a researcher in the school’s Institute of Metropolitan Affairs.
Kane-Willis said her story underscores the new turn in America’s “war on drugs” as government officials, notably President Obama’s drug czar, Gil Kerlikowske, are working to treat addiction as a public-health problem, not solely a criminal one.