State offers more funds to treat addicts

Governor proposes $22 million increase for drug programs

City share would be a third

Baltimore would get $25 million mayor sought over 3 years

January 16, 2001|By M. Dion Thompson | M. Dion Thompson,SUN STAFF

Gov. Parris N. Glendening is proposing a $22 million increase in state funding for drug treatment next year, with more than one-third going to Baltimore.

The city's share of the money, along with a promise from Glendening of an additional $9 million in the following year's budget, means Baltimore would receive over three years the full $25 million in state funds that Mayor Martin O'Malley has been seeking for drug treatment. The city got an extra $8 million in this year's budget.

O'Malley joined Glendening at the State House for yesterday's announcement, which the mayor applauded as "an investment in the people of Maryland that will pay dividends for the entire state."

"We think this is real progress," O'Malley said. "It cannot be allowed that our largest city would have the highest addiction rate in the entire country."

Glendening said the "aggressive effort" would give Baltimore and other local governments "the resources they need to make a sustained, measurable difference in the lives of their citizens."

His proposal is expected to win approval in the General Assembly, where Republicans have come out in support of additional funding for drug treatment.

GOP members of the House of Delegates held a news conference yesterday and chided Glendening for not spending enough on the problem.

"It's time for the resources to match the rhetoric," said Del. John R. Leopold of Anne Arundel County, who said Baltimore deserves twice as much additional money as the governor proposed. "This is an emergency situation. It's an outrage in the city of Baltimore, and it ought to be dealt with right now."

Since taking office in December 1999, O'Malley has pushed state leaders to give the city more money to help its estimated 60,000 drug addicts. In the months since the end of last year's session, the mayor has traveled the state to build up support for his goals and pushed the idea that drug addiction is a statewide problem.

Dr. Peter L. Beilenson, Baltimore's health commissioner, said 20,000 addicts live in Harford, Carroll, Baltimore and Anne Arundel counties. About 13 percent of the 22,000 people who will get help in city drug treatment centers this year live in the surrounding counties, he said.

He said the extra money next year would allow Baltimore to add about 1,500 treatment slots to the 7,000 now available. Even with the money promised for the year after that, the city would be only about three-quarters of the way to being able to provide drug treatment on demand, or as required by the courts, Beilenson said.

The city's treatment providers have been among those calling for more state help. Frank Satterfield, director of the Glenwood Life treatment center, said his program has grown from 230 slots in 1996 to about 550 today but that there is a six-month waiting list. Often, the only way someone can get into the program is when someone else drops out, he said.

Besides needing more treatment slots, Satterfield said, he sees a need to fund vocational education and mental health programs and raise staff salaries. The center's counselors are paid $22,000 to $29,000 a year.

Glendening's budget earmarks money to boost salaries of state employees who work in treatment programs, but it would be up to local governments to decide whether to raise pay for their workers and those in nonprofit centers.

The governor's proposal is in addition to the $25 million increase in drug treatment money statewide that the legislature approved last year.

"That money is right now out in the community, and it is making a difference," Glendening said.

His budget would bring to $85 million the total spent by the state for drug treatment programs throughout Maryland. The proposal includes a new $6.2 million initiative to target addicted adolescents, as well as children who are identified by state family service agencies.

"Literally, we're trying to treat the whole family," Glendening said.

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