City's drug problem demands a spectrum of addiction...

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

July 18, 1999

City's drug problem demands a spectrum of addiction services

The Sun's recent editorials concerning addiction in Baltimore and the Baltimore Substance Abuse Systems (BSAS) (June 27-28) missed the mark by failing to call for a dramatic increase in treatment funding and ignoring the need for a broader continuum of addiction services.

An effective continuum of addiction services ought to include harm-reduction activities, affordable housing, health care and adequate incomes.

Baltimore has begun to address the last two issues by advocating a single-payer system of universal health care and adopting living wage legislation. We are not faring so well with respect to harm reduction and housing.

Abstinence-based treatment linked to the criminal justice system works for only a minority of Baltimore's addicts. The harm-reduction approach seeks to reduce violence, HIV transmission and drug-related homicide until individuals can be successfully engaged in treatment.

Baltimore's needle-exchange program is exemplary, but it should be complemented by many other harm-reduction efforts, including outreach to addicts and the expansion of methadone treatment, housing and other services.

A successful continuum of services must also address poverty, which is a powerful factor in addiction and relapse. A newly clean individual who has no employment and no housing has little hope.

Thus city policies such as reducing the supply of low-income housing only make recovery from addiction more difficult.

We encourage the candidates in this city's fall election to consider the relationship between addiction and poverty, commit resources to expanding addiction services and reverse policies that perpetuate addiction.

Jeff Singer, Baltimore

The writer is president and chief executive officer of Health Care for the Homeless.

Drugs, poverty corrupt Mexican and U.S. justice

The U.S. press often blames other countries for our domestic social problems. This has been the standard procedure in the war on drugs.

The Sun's article on corruption in Mexico's judicial system, for instance, made no connection between what is going on in Mexico and on the streets of major U.S. cities ("Shining light on shadowy legal system," July 4).

If there were no demand for drugs in the U.S., the supply of drugs from countries such as Colombia and Mexico would dry up.

The article suggests that the Mexican judicial system is not functioning. Any reader of The Sun knows that Baltimore's judicial system is also failing.

The roots of Mexico's official corruption and drug mafia lie in the country's poverty. The same is true of drug use and related crime in the United States.

Both problems would begin to be resolved if governments would seriously address poverty, both on the local and international levels.

Thomas Ward, Baltimore

Mexico's ruling party demeans democracy, again

The Sun's article, "Mexican Senate blocks absentee voting by those abroad," (July 3) documents the appalling way this legislature has broken with the Latin American tradition of encouraging the diaspora to participate in their motherland's elections.

By using its Senate block to deny ballots to voters abroad, Mexico's ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) has disenfranchised nearly 15 percent of the Mexican electorate.

What kind of professed democracy prohibits its own citizens from exercising such a basic right?

Having controlled the electoral process for seven decades, the PRI is looking for ways to continue its dominance as opposition parties challenge its control. It is no coincidence that the Senate's action comes just a year before a presidential race in which the PRI faces possible defeat for the first time.

In blocking Mexicans living abroad from voting, just because they may have tasted democracy in the United States -- and might vote against the PRI -- Mexico's ruling party has once again shown its true, authoritarian colors.

Roshni Dave, Washington

The writer is a research associate at the Council on Hemispheric Affairs.

To hike their fees, doctors need a union So, a state commission has granted the Johns Hopkins Health System a 4.8 percent rate increase ("State grants Hopkins 4.8% rate increase," July 8). This is absurd. As a physician trying to run an office, I have not had any significant raises in my fees in the past five years.

Obviously, physicians need a Health Services Cost Review Commission that works for them. I think you call this a union.

Dr. Joseph H. Cutchin, Salisbury

Abel Wolman, truly a Renaissance man

The Sun's editorial about Abel Wolman brought back memories of this remarkable gentleman ("Abel Wolman, father of clean water," July 9). He was a true Renaissance man -- curious about everything and in love with humanity's potential.

I often ran into him on the train to or from Washington. Each meeting was a learning session for me. When I showed concern about pollution in the Chesapeake Bay, he would tell me how nature always cleanses the waters.

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