Drug treatment does work, needs to be more availableThe...

Letters to the Editor

July 07, 1999

Drug treatment does work, needs to be more available

The Sun's two-part editorial (June 27-28) on efforts to fight drug addiction in Baltimore deserves praise for calling attention to a major public health problem.

Unfortunately, it missed the point. Drug abuse treatment (whether coerced or voluntary) has been shown repeatedly over the past 30 years to be quite effective in reducing drug use, crime and HIV transmission.

Finding fault with Baltimore for not "proving" that treatment is effective is unfair.

The treatment system has never had adequate funding to provide services, let alone "prove its effectiveness."

Furthermore, federally funded research studies (including many conducted in Baltimore) with thousands of patients over the past 30 years have shown that treatment works and is indeed the most cost-effective approach to drug addiction.

Imagine your doctor telling you that you couldn't get treatment for diabetes until your HMO proved that the way they give insulin is effective.

Reserving treatment "slots" for those in the criminal justice system puts treatment programs in the perverse position of turning away people who volunteer for treatment in favor of those ordered to attend by their probation officer.

The sad result is that, in Baltimore, if you are poor and addicted to drugs or alcohol, you have to wait to get arrested before you can get help.

Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend and her staff hold the key to improving the situation. They can reverse the wrong-headed decision made in 1994, which denied Medicaid to people with drug dependence and alcoholism. They can provide adequate funding for treatment and evaluation.

Particularly in times of budget surplus, it is ridiculous to set up a false conflict between coerced and voluntary treatment.

Yes, those with addiction who are in trouble with the law should be required to get appropriate treatment, both in prison and after they get out.

But the approach should not be to "rob Peter to pay Paul." Treatment should be available to all who need it.

Robert A. Herman, Reisterstown

The writer is assistant professor of psychiatry at the University of Maryland School of Medicine.

Falls Road development would threaten streams

The Sun's article about Mel Benhoff's proposed development on Falls Road missed the heart of the story ("Irked neighbors try leaving developer no way out," June 30).

The site includes only a few acres that are almost level; the rest of it is wetlands, steep slopes, forest buffer and a narrow ridge between three streams, one of which -- Beaver Dam Run -- flows into the Loch Raven Reservoir.

As executive director of the Falls Road Community Association for many years, Doug McComas, who sold the land to Mr. Benhoff, often opposed similar plans to destroy critical riparian land because they would damage adjacent trout streams. '

Most neighbors do not begrudge Mr. McComas or Mr. Benhoff the right to use the land, but we will continue to resist their plan to abuse it.

If Baltimore County and the state do not soon stop the destruction of riparian land for "development," no trout streams will be left to save.

Even now, in the entire Jones Falls watershed, which includes most of north-central Baltimore City and the Green Spring Valley, only one small stream still supports a naturally reproducing population of brook trout.

Harold H. Burns Jr., Baltimore

Racist killer treated too kindly

The title of The Sun's article on Benjamin Smith, the white supremacist who went on a killing spree in the Midwest last weekend, "Troubled youth leaves questions after rampage," (July 6) portrayed Smith much too kindly.

Such kindness and understanding would not be afforded to a black person who committed such a crime.

A "troubled youth" might shoplift. Smith was a murderous, racist adult, not a "youth." He went on a killing spree, not a "rampage."

The question "why," which appeared under his photograph, begs us to "understand" this monster. The answer lies in his hatred.

A better question is why blacks are targeted for racial profiling, but not people like Smith. Instead of examining his "privileged" background, The Sun should fully examine white males who murder.

This might begin to balance the countless studies on the pathologies of "urban" (a code word for "black") people.

Curtis Adams, Laurel

Another foe, another fan of `The Boondocks'

If a white comic strip depicted blacks using the same heavy-handed racial stereotypes employed by the black creator of "The Boondocks," no newspaper in America would run such a strip today ("The Boondocks: racist or revelatory?" letters, June 12).

Were I African-American, I would be deeply insulted by the strip's depiction of blacks as angry, hostile and racist -- all drawn in a style that does nothing to show black beauty and strength, either physical or spiritual.

Michael Holden, Chestertown

I find "The Boondocks" clever, well-drawn and socially perceptive. It's also funny.

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