Howard drug czar proposed by Robey to oversee programs

Coordination of efforts would be helpful, he says

October 17, 2002|By Larry Carson | Larry Carson,SUN STAFF

Howard County needs a drug czar to raise the profile of the county's drug-fighting efforts and to better coordinate prevention and treatment programs, County Executive James N. Robey said at a candidates forum yesterday.

"There are a lot of overlapping services. I want to create a position in the Department of Health to oversee all drug programs," Robey said at the Owen Brown Interfaith Center. The new job would be at the level of a deputy health officer.

The proposal is the latest effort in the fight against substance abuse since the release in January last year of the Delta Project study - a comprehensive assessment of the county's often-neglected substance abuse problem.

The drug czar proposal is also a sign, Robey said, of his belief that the drug scourge must be approached from a health perspective, rather than a law enforcement one.

"I want it to happen," Robey said.

The $320,000 Delta Project study said Howard had nearly 2,000 residents in drug treatment during 1999, but no residential detoxification beds for the 52 percent of them who had no private health insurance.

Howard health officer Dr. Penny E. Borenstein said the drug czar job could be in existence "within the next six months," funded by a combination of grant and county money.

Robey's proposal gained instant support from several County Council candidates who also spoke at the forum.

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