Saturday Mailbox


July 30, 2005

Drug treatment key to reviving neighborhoods

I read with great interest The Sun's July 25 Maryland section.

Dan Rodricks wrote another in his series of columns promoting an active, positive response to the problems created by addiction in our city ("A weary city can't turn to cynicism when it comes to drugs and violence," July 25).

There was also an article about a church in West Baltimore opposed to the proposed location of a drug treatment center the city may open nearby ("Communities opposed to treatment centers up against U.S. law," July 25).

Finally, I read the obituary published for Irving Cohen, businessman and founder of Hidden Brook, one of the first treatment centers for alcoholism in the state ("Irving Cohen, 87, founded alcoholic treatment center," July 25).

Mr. Cohen's work was prompted by personal experience: His wife was a recovering alcoholic. Hidden Brook opened in Harford County in 1968 and for the next 17 years provided hope and help to thousands of alcoholics and addicts.

Many of these recovering people went on to be active in sharing what they had learned about recovery with their families and communities by participating in 12-step meetings and repairing their lives.

Yet despite decades of evidence and thousands of lives changed for the better through treatment, some people still say they don't want treatment programs in their communities because they will "bring addicts into our neighborhoods."

The Sun's article on treatment centers also quotes a church member referring to the high crime rate in her area.

Chances are, much of the crime in the neighborhood is directly related to the untreated addicts who are living there.

If the community makes treatment accessible, children will have the opportunity to see recovery in action as people get counseling, find jobs, move into stable housing and reunite with their families.

This is the same positive effect Hidden Brook helped foster almost 40 years ago.

My organization believes that treatment is as important now as it was in 1968.

We support the zoning bills introduced by the mayor because they would make it easier for people living in the city to receive the treatment they need.

And we thank The Sun for raising awareness not only of the problems created by substance abuse but of the solutions as well.

Beth Ryan


The writer is executive director of the Maryland affiliate of the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence.

Maintenance works in Puerto Rico, too

The Sun's otherwise laudable article on providing methadone maintenance treatment in Maryland's prisons ("Trying to break the cycle of heroin addiction, prison," July 23) reports that there are no reports of methadone treatment in any other U.S. prison.

It neglected to mention that since 2002, sentenced inmates have been receiving methadone at the Men's Correctional Facility at Las Malvinas Prison in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

The inmates participating in this program are heroin-addicted and have at least two years left on their sentences. As in the Rikers Island jail program and the Baltimore prison study, an integral part of this program is the referral to a community methadone program upon release.

The program went from a small pilot project with 24 participants in its first year to one that includes six times that number today.

In July 2003, I was one of the investigators in an evaluation of this pilot, along with researchers from Yale Medical School, Beth Israel Medical Center and Carlos Albizu University of Puerto Rico.

The evaluation found that the program was successfully providing methadone treatment to some of the prison's heaviest heroin users - whose average length of sentence was 19.4 years - and that the prison administration, staff and inmates all approved of the program.

Based on that report, the Puerto Rico Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation has decided to expand the number of those receiving treatment to 500 system-wide.

Holly Catania

New York

The writer is a project director for the International Center for Advancement of Addiction Treatment at Beth Israel Medical Center in New York.

Elkridge irrelevant to city's real woes

With the horrendous social problems that plague Baltimore, can people not put their energy into those issues instead of the tempest-in-a-teapot over the Elkridge Club ("Elkridge says it has sought out black members," July 21)?

While there are indeed larger philosophical issues here, admission to the Elkridge club would in reality benefit a very few African-Americans in this city, just as it benefits very few Caucasians.

However the Elkridge Club issue is resolved, it will do little to help the crack addicts, abused children and illiterate graduates of our city school system - from all racial backgrounds.

Thus this uproar is yet another way for disingenuous politicians and community leaders to take our attention away from Baltimore's serious and chronic problems, which they have had so little success in alleviating.

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