Until now, the chairmanship of the Governor's Drug and Alcohol Abuse Commission has been a political plum for men who curried favor with William Donald Schaefer. As a result, there has been tremendous public visibility ` both for the chairmen and the commission. But in reality very little has been accomplished. By choosing Neil Solomon to succeed Lt. Gov. Mickey Steinberg as head of the state substance abuse commission, Schaefer has changed the group's focus to a public health perspective.
Solomon, a physician who has served as secretary of the state health department, comes to the job with a much-needed, socially conscious public health framework that recognizes the critical links between drug use, lack of mobility and violent crime. Solomon has already articulated the major questions: how to get rid of the profit in drugs that are the motive for so much of the violence that riddles the cities, how to make sure that education and health care are available to help break the addiction cycle.
The answers, of course, will not come easily, nor will they be cheap. The problem is compounded by the fact that the commission itself has no power or authority. As such, a big job is accompanied by an even bigger challenge: to keep drug abuse issues alive, and funded, during this time of federal, state and local budget cuts. Neil Solomon seems well-prepared to do both.