Use settlement to fight addiction, not budget
Apparently, drug distributors and manufacturers are about to agree on settlement terms with two Ohio counties as a prelude to a multi-billion-dollar nationwide settlement of all opioid claims (“$260 million deal averts 1st federal opioid trial,” Oct. 22). I remember the 1998 tobacco settlement in which about $260 billion went to the states, ostensibly for tobacco prevention and treatment, but in reality often was used to fill state budget gaps.
This year, states will spend only 2.4% of tobacco settlement and tobacco tax dollars on prevention and cessation programs.
Maryland received $2.3 billion from the settlement with annual payments of $130 to $150 million.
It has a Cigarette Restitution Fund but spends only a small fraction to prevent young people from smoking and to help smokers quit. Maryland has cut adult smoking rates significantly but annual healthcare costs directly related to smoking are estimated at $2.71 billion. We need to do better.
Let’s hope that opioid settlement dollars will be used for substance abuse education, prevention and treatment and not as a backdoor to fill state and local budget deficits.
Reservoir shot beautifully captures the fall colors
Thank you to The Sun’s Jerry Jackson for taking the beautiful picture of a serene fall day on Loch Raven Reservoir. You captured the beauty of autumnal colors reflected in the water. Thank you Baltimore Sun for printing the lovely picture in color.
Mr. Jackson, I suggest you frame your photograph and display it with pride.
Get rid of ICE contracts to make Howard welcoming
The article, (“Howard coalition calls on county officials to end ICE contract,” Oct. 17) leaves the impression that the brand new Howard County Coalition for Immigrant Justice has frivolous reasons for pressing for ending Howard County’s contract with ICE for detaining immigrants at the Howard County Detention Center. Nothing could be further from the truth.
The coalition’s aim is to restore Howard County’s standing as a fair, safe and welcoming place for immigrants, who in the long run always give back much more than they receive. Besides ending the ICE detention center contract, we should follow the lead of surrounding counties like Montgomery, which has created legal funds to assist those seeking asylum.
With legal representation, an asylum seeker is five times more likely to be successful in the courts, but the government does not provide this as it would for criminal cases.
We have first-hand experience in how difficult it is to find and afford legal representation for a family seeking asylum, as the few lawyers offering pro bono counsel are swamped.
In April, my husband and I sponsored a Honduran mother and young child who would otherwise be in a detention center today.
Still, since non-criminal, no-income defendants are not provided an attorney by the government, we have had to raise thousands of dollars for an attorney so that they have a fighting chance at gaining asylum.
While the family lives in our home, the Howard County religious and progressive communities have been phenomenally supportive in providing all types help.
I like to think that this fits the true spirit of Columbia, welcoming people escaping poverty and violence to make a better life for their children.
Our immigrant parents, grandparents and great grandparents received help from their communities, and now we should be actively paying that forward.
Cummings: Money speaks when people are quiet
I have a favorite story about Rep. Elijah Cummings that I always tell to my public health students (“In Baltimore, many tell Elijah Cummings stories, from offering inmates hope to helping bring calm after riots,” Oct. 17).
Years ago, I had the privilege of hearing Mr. Cummings speak at a gathering of grassroots volunteer lobbyists working for the end of poverty.
As we grappled with our cynicism about the growth of professional lobbyists representing monied interests, Mr. Cummings said, “It’s not that money doesn’t have an influence in politics. But money has an influence in the absence of citizens speaking up. We give up far more power with our silence than is ever taken from us by money.”
Rest in power, Rep. Cummings. We will miss you.