Untreated addiction hurts children along with the drug...

Letters to the Editor

July 09, 1999

Untreated addiction hurts children along with the drug users

The Sun's otherwise excellent two-part editorial on drug addiction's cost to Baltimore (June 27-28), concentrated on addicts' criminal behavior, but did not mention another result of the shortage of available treatment: The harm untreated addiction does to children and families.

The editorial cited 60,000 addicts in the city and 60,000 more in surrounding counties. Many of those 120,000 addicts are parents. Their children often suffer profound neglect and abuse.

Many of these children lack not only food, clothing and medical care, but the basic human contact needed for normal brain development.

In the 1990s, the number of Maryland children placed outside of their homes has doubled to more than 13,000. More than 60 percent of children entering out-of-home placement had a parent with an identified substance abuse problem.

Yet neither prevention nor treatment has been specifically targeted toward parents. That must change.

A January Columbia University study led by former Cabinet official Joseph Califano found that the U.S. child welfare system spends $20 billion per year to care for abused and neglected children of drug and alcohol abusing parents.

These children, the study concludes, are "the most vulnerable and endangered individuals in America."

For Maryland's children, drug treatment for addicted parents must be made a priority now.

Charlie Cooper

Mindy Amor, Baltimore

The writers co-chair the Coalition to Protect Maryland's Children.

Punishment threat can help drug treatment to work

The Sun's editorials about the city's failings in dealing with drug abuse were well-founded and much-needed (June 27-28). As a former drug abuse psychologist and counselor, I agree that more effective evaluation based on results of treatment must be a priority.

But if those reports come from the programs themselves, as is often the case, their accuracy is open to question. Reports must come from credible outside evaluators.

The editorial reported that Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend and others have noted the success of treatment programs for criminal offenders on probation and also that completion rates in the city's voluntary treatment programs are "often the worst in the state."

As a counselor, I found that many of our drug abuse clients volunteered for counseling/treatment because that would count in their favor in impending criminal trials. If still free after their court date, most quickly dropped out. Such poorly motivated enrollment may be a factor in the city's low treatment completion rate.

It is not surprising that addicts on probation (also responding to the threat of prison) had fewer positive test results than those who were not. After the threat ends, their results may be quite different.

To The Sun's excellent suggestion that the Baltimore Substance Abuse Services board be cut from 30 to 12 members, I would like to add: Many board members are evidently political appointments.

An effective board must consist primarily of men and women who have an in-depth knowledge of the drug abuse scene. A healthy number should be mature former addicts, who have been off their drug of choice for at least three years.

R. Berman, Baltimore

Is the presidency up for sale?

According to The Sun, Texas Gov. George W. Bush has raised twice as much campaign money as Vice President Al Gore and almost nine times as much as his nearest Republican rival, Sen. John McCain of Arizona, giving him "an enormous advantage over his opponents" ("Bush far outstrips rivals with record fund raising," July 1).

Is the presidency of the United States really for sale to the highest bidder?

What can an ordinary, non-billionaire citizen do about it? Give a little more to organizations like Common Cause and Project Vote? Scream?

Eleanor N. Lewis, Baltimore

Black voters will endorse Bush's conservatism

I disagree with Paul Delaney's argument that Texas Gov. George W. Bush's message of "compassionate conservatism" will not resonate among black voters ("Bush has far to go to win the black vote," July 4). African-Americans are the embodiment of compassionate conservatism.

Mr. Delaney seems to ignore that opinion surveys demonstrate that when African Americans are questioned on issues, without political alignments being mentioned, their responses are consistent with other conservatives' in supporting such initiatives as school choice, parental notification, a ban on partial-birth abortion and the death penalty.

Nevertheless, Mr. Delaney will be proved correct if the media only gives voice to one perspective on African-Americans' political views.

If The Sun is interested in a full and fair discussion of those issues, it will give voice to more than one perspective.

Boyd K. Rutherford, Columbia

Parents must keep firearms child-safe . . .

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