Baltimore Sun

Maryland finally comes to grips with its two-front war on heroin

- By Milton Emanuel Williams Jr.

The most encouragin­g words spoken at the recent Baltimore Summit on Maryland’s heroin problem were made by the person charged with leading the state’s pushback on this evil drug and the terrible consequenc­es it bestows on the community, the family and the taxpayer.

Lt. Gov. Boyd Rutherford correctly defined the most overlooked problem in the state’s decades-long war with substance abuse. He said, “I am beginning to learn that there is no one-size-fits-all solution to this problem.”

He might well have added that Maryland is actually involved in two heroin wars, and not just the one we have been fighting — and losing — for years at an insanely high cost in lives and taxpayer dollars.

The battle plan has been basically the same in Maryland and states all across America. And basically failing. Previous administra­tions have been inclined to focus policies primarily on substance abuse as it exists in suburban and rural communitie­s, while failing to see the distinct difference­s in the causes and effects of addiction on two heroin war fronts, our inner-city and outer-city communitie­s.

Unlike past heroin study groups, the lieutenant governor and his advisers seem to realize that they don’t know what they don’t know about this two-front war and how to start winning.

So they will learn, for example, that most addicts in the ghetto, unlike many in suburbia, simply have no desire to stop using heroin and, therefore, must be forced into treatment. A major difference in these war zones is that often an outer-city addict’s first step toward recovery is taken in the family doctor’s office, or in an expensive out-of-state rehab facility. No such family financed “beaten paths” to heroin help can be found in the povertyrid­den ghetto.

And the state heroin task force should not be surprised to learn that, in the inner city, the taxpayer pays for much of the addict’s drugs. It’s no wonder, then, that we see more inner-city addicts show up for treatment each month when their welfare money runs out.

The task force will also have the opportunit­y to learn that a bold new treatment approach, a requiremen­t we call “street smart medicine,” if added to treatment programs in the poorest, most heroin-plagued inner-city neighborho­ods, would save multi-millions of Medicaid and tax dollars by reducing the number of unnecessar­y and avoidable emergency room visits and hospitaliz­ations. Essentiall­y, if substance abuse patients are going to be in a methadone program funded by Medicaid, then they must keep their primary care and mental health appointmen­ts and take their medication. My clinic, Turning Point, estimates that, with its 2,000 patients alone, this could save domestic competitor­s. Medicaid $10 million to $20 million per

In addition to the extremelyy­ear.troubling bits and pieces we’ve seen from leaks, we Many on this heroin task force may even can also judge the merits of the TPP by our come to appreciate the fact that every experience with other major trade agreeaddic­t who enters a clinic door to receive ments, like NAFTA, which have amounted methadone treatment is one less potential to nothing but broken promises. There’s a criminal in the inner city that day or night lot of evidence that trade agreements like

robbing, mugging, burglarizi­ng and even NAFTA have historical­ly hurt and even devastated employment and the local selling their children for sex to get money economies here in the United States. And to pay for their desperatel­y needed “fix” — as every business owner knows, employees especially once they have run out of are also customers — without jobs, people taxpayer money. can’t spend money with local businesses. As the pastor of East Baltimore’s New

Past trade deals like those have caused Life Evangelica­l Baptist Church and presilocal industries and jobs to be off-shored dent of Turning Point Clinic, which we and have failed to produce incentives for believe is the largest methadone treatment innovation or investment in local induscente­r in the country, I have been fighting tries, all of which impacts Maryland the inner-city war in the trenches for 30 communitie­s. years. And I’ve been praying for Maryland,

While larger corporatio­ns may benefit, my Maryland, to actually seek real solutheir profits are so sheltered that our tions to combat this two-headed heroin communitie­s never see these benefits. monster, and begin this new counterGiv­en the history all of this, how can we offensive with the understand­ing that, as justify fast-tracking approval of a trade deal Lieutenant Governor Rutherford put it, that is essentiall­y NAFTA on steroids? “no one size fits all.”

The informatio­n we have, along with the God knows, it’s time —“high time” — we broken promises of past trade deals, make it start taking accurate aim at our heroin clear that the TPP is designed by large enemy on both fronts of this two-theater corporatio­ns for their benefit and will do war. Now let’s hope and pray our state’s nothing to create jobs or support small leaders in Annapolis will say “amen.” business. Congress must look closer and think twice before they fast track this dangerous, short-sighted agreement.

Steve Shaff is the executive director of the Chesapeake Sustainabl­e Business Council and founder of Community Vision Partners.

 ?? SAUL LOEB/AFP/GETTY IMAGES ?? Demonstrat­ors protest against legislatio­n to give President Barack Obama fast-track authority to advance trade deals, including the Trans-Pacific Partnershi­p. Fast track has passed the Senate and is due for a vote this month in the House of...
SAUL LOEB/AFP/GETTY IMAGES Demonstrat­ors protest against legislatio­n to give President Barack Obama fast-track authority to advance trade deals, including the Trans-Pacific Partnershi­p. Fast track has passed the Senate and is due for a vote this month in the House of...

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