City losing drug war and jutice, lawyers warn Need for prevention money cited

December 28, 1990|By John Fairhall | John Fairhall,Evening Sun Staff

WASHINGTON -- A new report shows that federal drug grants to Maryland have risen sharply since 1987, but some local officials say more treatment and prevention money is needed.

"The problem is for 20 years the prevention and treatment aspects have been neglected" for law enforcement, says Michael M. Gimbel, director of the Baltimore County Office of Substance Abuse.

The report released yesterday by the Office of National Drug Control Policy shows that federal grants to Maryland for treatment, prevention and law enforcement more than doubled from $14.7 million in fiscal 1987 to $35.9 million in 1990.

John P. Walters, acting director of the policy office, said the report illustrates that the grants process is "working well," with "more federal resources . . . reaching more local anti-drug programs, more quickly, each year."

Walters said there's no reason to change the system in which grants are made to state governments for distribution to local programs.

But the U.S. Conference of Mayors took issue with Walters, saying cities hardest hit by illegal drugs should be given resources directly. More treatment money also is needed, said Patrick V. Murphy, director of the group's police policy board, which is co-chaired by Baltimore Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke.

Some mayors feel states don't allocate federal drug money equitably, giving disproportionate amounts to suburbs and rural areas not as devastated by drugs as are cities, according to Murphy.

"The mayors will be going to Congress once again asking for direct funding," Murphy said.

Gimbel, reached in Baltimore County yesterday, said the grants process works effectively in Maryland.

"The funds are getting down faster [to local programs] and there are more of them," he said, including increased state funding provided by Gov. William Donald Schaefer.

But Gimbel said federal drug spending priorities are distorted, emphasizing law enforcement over prevention and treatment. The demand for publicly-funded treatment programs is rising, he said.

"We've got whole new groups of people coming into treatment who are working but have no health benefits," Gimbel said. "The better we are at education and the better we are at law enforcement, the more treatment demand we create."

He said another worrisome trend is, "The people coming into our clinic are sicker than ever before." He said that supports the recent national drug abuse survey finding that hard-core addicts are increasing in number.

Walters said there probably will be a "slight increase" in federal grants to states in the future, a prediction that depends on what PTC Congress and the Bush administration want.

With the sharp increase in grants since Bush took office in 1989, Walters said his office's first concern was making sure the money is being received and spent promptly by the states. The report shows that to be the case: Federal grant application review time has shrunk from an average of 46 days in 1989 to just 28 days in 1990.

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