Use set­tle­ment to fight addiction, not bud­get

Baltimore Sun Sunday - - NATION & WORLD -

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.

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