Prevention is a car crash

So . . . I have this idea. Read it all before you get angry.

It goes like this- I am tired of having to pay the extra cost for a seat belt every time I buy a car. I mean, I know they supposedly prevent injuries, but everyone knows you can’t prove prevention. I mean, you’d have to be able to view alternate realities or something to say that, with absolute certainty, a seat belt prevented a specific injury in a specific crash.

And, for that matter, air bags too. I mean, c’mon  . . . in this nation of vanity we live in do we actually need inflatable pillows to save our precious faces? How vain. Imagine the amount of money car manufacturers could save by not including these so-called “safety” devices. I’d bet millions, maybe billions over time.

Really, the money should go into more important things . . . like paying for the bills of people injured in wrecks, especially those people who were in vehicles that did not have air bags or seat belts. I mean, these people are injured or dying . . . right now! Why waste the money on preventing injuries that, in all honesty, no one can truly predict, when we have people suffering in the present? Not to mention the years of physical therapy that car crash injuries might need. I’m sure if we just stopped putting in seat belts and airbags  we could pay off the bills for everyone in the hospital right this moment.

Phew . . . it’s a good thing we really aren’t as stupid as all that . . . or are we?

Imagine if I replaced all the above instances of air bags and seat belts with preventative measures for reducing drug abuse, sexual abuse, physical abuse, generational poverty, mental illness, family violence, depression, anxiety, etc, etc, etc. That is the reality of our present situation. Effective family interventions, individual and family therapy, and preventative programs exist for all of the above. Yet, no one supports them. Not insurance. Not government. Rarely do religious groups. In fact, most people think that these preventative measures are fluff programs, only to be used/funded when extra money is handy (and we all know that is hardly ever the case).

I sometimes wonder, as a practicing therapist, how much money would be saved if insurance, government, businesses, etc., would step up and provide preventative treatments for clientele. How much money would be saved by breaking the poverty cycle when a child is young or if a drug offender could be kept out of prison for a lifetime. I wonder what benefit our economy would have from more people being more engaged in the workplace not zombified on psycho-pharmaceuticals, not simply just getting by due to depression or anxiety.

Investment in preventative programs is minimal. The agency I work at spends, on average $11 per client, and that is for all services, not just preventative ones. A recent quote I saw put the California spending per inmate at $47,000 per year.  I wonder what half of that type of money would do for a family in crisis, or a student from a broken home headed for substance abuse or gang life, or for a young child who has never been outside his/her impoverished community.

Not to mention the human suffering. Children neglected because of the addictions of the parents. Gang related deaths. Children suffering in silence through sexual abuse of strangers, friends, and family. The list goes on . . .

Of course I believe in the use of seat belts and airbags, their benefit is undeniable. To even say “believe in” when talking about such measures almost sounds funny because it is so concretely apparent that, belief or no belief, seat belts and air bags do far more good than not having them at all.

Yet, people still don’t “believe in” various forms of therapy, community interventions, etc., despite the overwhelming empirical and statistical evidence that they work. I would argue that they often cost less than implementing programs after the fact. Recovery is always a slow process, but prevention almost never is.

What gives? How many more children have to be sexually abused? How many more mothers, fathers, sons, and daughters have to die of an overdose?

Do we really prefer to pay for the surgeries when a simple seat belt would suffice?

-ASG

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