Letters To The Editor

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

April 01, 2005

Keeping addicts alive is big step toward recovery

I applaud Dr. Peter L. Beilenson, Baltimore's health commissioner, and Dr. Robert Schwartz of the Open Society Institute for their efforts at saving lives and obtaining funding and treatment on behalf of the many addicts in Baltimore ("City overdose deaths fell by 12% last year," March 28).

As a substance abuse treatment provider and recovering addict-alcoholic, I know the bureaucratic hoops that one must jump through to get motivated addicts into treatment.

Yet through the efforts of these doctors and many people behind the scenes, the epidemic of drug abuse and the damage it does has at least been lessened.

However, I was disturbed by comments from Michael W. Gimbel, a former heroin addict who is now director of substance abuse education at Sheppard Pratt Health System. His assertion that "Narcan ... is not the best way to get addicts clean and sober" totally misses the point of this intervention.

Narcan is used to temporarily block the effects of heroin, which has a major side effect of respiratory depression that can lead to respiratory arrest and death.

The goal of this intervention is to keep the person alive, because, as I hope Mr. Gimbel will agree, no addict can get clean and sober if he or she is dead.

Mr. Gimbel also spoke of wishing that "those people" would "get trained in how to seek a job and go back to school." It is unclear to whom Mr. Gimbel was referring, but this degrading remark assumes that the providers of this lifesaving intervention or the people they are helping are jobless and without education.

I hope that the effort of the Staying Alive initiative continues to help addicts live, recover and remember where they came from in an effort to help those who still suffer.

Kurt Haspert

Catonsville

It's amazing that Michael W. Gimbel, a former Baltimore County substance abuse director, denigrates overdose prevention efforts as "not the best way to get addicts clean and sober and back into society."

These are lofty goals, indeed, and ones worth pursuing. But they certainly won't be achievable once the user is dead.

Alcoholics Anonymous has had it right for decades - when responding to a treatable but incurable disease such as alcoholism (or any drug dependency), one must measure success one day at a time.

Dr. Robert Newman

New York

The writer is director of the Baron Edmond de Rothschild Chemical Dependency Institute at Beth Israel Medical Center.

Overlooking efforts of city firefighters

While the news of the decrease in overdose deaths in Baltimore was welcome, The Sun's article "City overdose deaths fell by 12% last year" (March 28) failed to disclose that in addition to the use of Narcan for overdose victims, the personnel of the Baltimore City Fire Department are a major reason for this trend.

The members of the BCFD are on the front lines daily to administer lifesaving care to the citizens of Baltimore.

The failure to acknowledge their efforts in this story trivializes what they do time and time again.

Michael Campbell

Nottingham

The writer is a battalion chief in the Baltimore City Fire Department.

Some crimes deserve the death sentence

I adamantly oppose The Sun's advocacy of abolishing the death penalty in Maryland and replacing it with life without parole ("Life without parole," editorial, March 27).

When convicted murderers have exhausted every appeal in our legal system to have their sentences reversed or reduced, they deserve to pay the ultimate price. If that means forfeiting their life, so be it.

Why should the state have to bear the life-long cost of feeding and housing convicted murderers, as it would under a life-without-parole sentence?

Some crimes deserve the death penalty. Abolishing it in Maryland would be a serious mistake.

Albert E. Denny

Baltimore

Filibusters block will of the majority

The whole idea of using the filibuster to control judicial appointments is outside the Constitution ("Curbing filibuster is undemocratic," letters, March 30).

We now have a federal judiciary that does not represent the will of the majority.

Presidential appointments have been designed to slowly modify the courts to reflect the will of the majority.

The filibuster just thwarts this balance of power mechanism.

Richard Tatlow

Marriottsville

Spend space funds much closer to home

The Sun's editorial on the elevation of Michael D. Griffin to the top job as NASA administrator points out that "just last week, researchers used its precise measurements of local galaxies to argue that dark energy ... is also a force within galaxies. Hubble's data are real, meaningful and cost-effective" ("First Hubble, then Mars," editorial, March 24).

Excuse me? Real? Something that's happening millions of light-years away - just how does this affect me or the planet? If it does affect me or the planet, and it's something bad, as I see it we're toast.

Cost-effective? I cannot begin to fathom what this information means to my daily life or the lives of other taxpayers.

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