Maryland does not need a task force to address the heroin epidemic; it needs more affordable, residential treatment. Gov. Larry Hogan (R) needs to work with local officials to turn the state’s closed psychiatric hospitals into low-cost, long-term residential treatment centers for the addicts who want but cannot find help. 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, away from the drug environment. That will reduce crime, street violence and the spread of HIV and Hepatitis C, which often are associated with drug addiction. We also could provide addicts with job training, GED classes and family support programs. This can be done through a public-private partnership, thus costing the taxpayers much less than we now pay to put addicts in prison.
If we say we are not going to arrest our way out of this problem and will treat addiction as a health issue, then we need to provide as many treatment beds as we provide prison cells for those we incarcerate. Every time politicians can’t solve a problem, they create a task force. This gets publicity and takes the heat off for several months, but we end up with a fancy report that sits on the shelf for years. Maryland can’t afford to wait that long.
Mike Gimbel, Timonium, Md.
The writer, a recovering heroin addict, is a former Baltimore County drug czar.