Pubdate: Fri, 17 Oct 2014
Source: Baltimore Sun (MD)
Copyright: 2014 The Baltimore Sun Company
Author: Mike Gimbel
Page: 20


Baltimore City does not need another task force to address the 
current heroin epidemic affecting the city; it needs more affordable 
residential treatment ("Mayor appoints task force to study heroin, 
substance abuse," Oct. 14).

The mayor, local county executives and the governor need to work 
together and turn the state's empty and closed psychiatric hospitals 
into affordable, long-term residential treatment centers for all the 
addicts who cannot find help. I know this will work because I did 
this in Baltimore County by opening several treatment programs on the 
grounds of Rosewood State Hospital. This will get the addicts off the 
street and away from their drug environment, thus reducing crime, 
street violence and the spreading of HIV and Hepatitis C, which is 
often associated with drug addiction. At the same time we could 
provide addicts with goodquality treatment, job-training services, 
GED classes and family support programs for the thousands of addicts 
who need help. This can be done by a public/private partnership, thus 
costing the taxpayers much less than we currently pay to put addicts in prison.

If we say we are not going to arrest our way out of this problem and 
treat addiction as a health issue, than we need to provide as many 
treatment beds as we provided prison cells for those we used to incarcerate.

Every time politicians can't solve a problem, they create a task 
force. This gets them cheap publicity, takes the heat off for several 
months, and they end up with a fancy report that sits on the shelf 
for years. Baltimore City can't afford to wait that long.

Mike Gimbel, Timonium The writer is the former Baltimore County drug 
czar and a recovering heroin addict.
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