' Give us treatment or you'll give us death,' city protesters cry Loss of aid will hit alcohol and drug treatment, mental health programs.

October 08, 1991|By Alisa Samuels | Alisa Samuels,Evening Sun Staff

Shouting, "No more cuts," about 500 people marched around the War Memorial in Baltimore last night to protest a proposed $450 million in budget cuts that would severely affect social service programs.

Some marchers carried signs that urged the governor to "Give us treatment or you'll give us death," and to "Cut waste, not jobs. Raise taxes."

The march around the monument, which faces City Hall, took about 20 minutes of a rally that lasted about two hours.

Gov. William Donald Schaefer's cuts could mean a loss of $21 million in state aid to Baltimore, city officials said.

"The cuts are worse than devastating . . . they are tragic," Elias Dorsey, acting city health commissioner, told the crowd.

Dorsey said the city could lose more than $6 million for environmental, alcohol- and drug-treatment and mental-health programs. He said 168 health workers and 122 drug-treatment workers could lose their jobs.

The cuts would wipe out the city's restaurant-inspection program, Dorsey said.

"When I see restaurants can't be inspected," Dorsey said, "I know there's a chance of an outbreak of food-borne illness."

State Sen. Larry Young, D-City, who organized the rally, termed the cuts the "misery index."

"This is not a white problem. This is not a black problem," Young said. "It's everybody's problem."

"Every time Schaefer makes major cuts, he doesn't suffer," said Michael Thompkins, 33, a recovering alcoholic. He said Schaefer should reduce his 119-member staff to save money.

Thompkins has been in a six-month rehabilitation program at Friendship House Inc. for five months. He fears that if the cuts go into effect Nov. 1, he and others won't get the help they need.

As a dozen state legislators and city lawmakers listened, speakers ainted a gloomy picture of life, should the cuts take effect.

They said crime would rise; that addicts who failed to get treatment would return to drugs and prey on society; that inmates who couldn't get educated inside prisons would return to a life of crime when released.

Angelina Anthony, director of client services at the Baltimore Sexual Assault Recovery Center, said that if the cuts go into effect, Maryland would become the only state without rape-crisis services.

"Last year, we got over 4,000 calls," Anthony said. "Where are all these people going to call?" Reported rapes have increased 23 percent since last year, she said.

Elizabeth Jewer, 20, said she preferred raising taxes than seeing people suffer.

"What's the big deal about a couple of pennies if they're going to save lives?" she asked. The crowd responded with applause.

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