The BSAS board is revising the organization's governance and operation. But the board, following an outside consultant's advice, is in danger of making matters worse. The consultant has recommended that the overly large board be expanded to 36 members to add representatives from such agencies as the United Way and the school system. Though this suggestion is tempered with a structure of working committees, it is a misguided idea.
Should BSAS be abolished? We think not. If run properly, it could outdistance any city government agency in efficiency and freedom to experiment. BSAS, though, is not maximizing that potential.
The following steps should be taken:
* At its July 8 meeting, the BSAS board should reject the ill-advised reorganization proposal. A more workable alternative would be a smaller executive board of 10 to 12 members, supplemented by an advisory board. A compact governing body would make BSAS's success more likely.
* The effectiveness of all BSAS programs should be evaluated.
* The BSAS board must move quickly to establish uniform standards for contractors, including requirements for regular drug testing.
* To reduce the possibility of conflicts of interest, no representatives of groups that receive BSAS funding should be on the board.
* A central intake system must be established. The absence of one has made it difficult to track patients and compile reliable information about waiting times for treatment. It also complicates shifting patients from one program to another, leading to patients dropping out and relapsing.
BSAS is a creation of Mayor Schmoke and Dr. Beilenson; the next mayor could alter the way Baltimore manages its treatment slots. With the city projected to face large budget deficits, the direction of Baltimore's drug treatment plan should be a major issue in this year's mayoral campaign. All candidates should address it in detail.
Unless the drug scourge is curbed, Baltimore has little hope of permanently decreasing gun violence and the high number of homicides, which are serious deterrents to the city's well-being and economic growth.