Ehrlich assailed on funding of drug treatment

Beilenson suggests lack of state grants has hurt efforts to fight crime in Baltimore

October 05, 2006|By John Fritze | John Fritze,sun reporter

Beilenson — Responding to political advertisements by Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. that have focused on crime in Baltimore, Dr. Peter L. Beilenson, former city health commissioner, said yesterday that the Ehrlich administration has hindered public safety efforts by failing to adequately fund drug treatment.

Beilenson - who worked for Ehrlich's opponent, Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Malley, and who recently lost a Democratic bid for Congress - said that if Ehrlich is serious about reducing crime in Baltimore, he should make a more significant investment in fighting drug addiction through state grants.

"The funding has basically stagnated over the past four years, particularly over the past three years," Beilenson said at a Park Heights drug treatment center. "He should put his money where his mouth is and dramatically increase the amount of drug treatment funding available."

Ehrlich officials responded by releasing data showing that funding had increased significantly for several programs under the Republican governor's watch, including for programs overseen by the Department of Juvenile Services and the Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services.

"Try as he might, Dr. Beilenson cannot deny that Governor Ehrlich has substantially increased funding and access to drug treatment, while substantially reducing substance abuse and arrest rates for those receiving treatment," Ehrlich spokesman Henry Fawell said in an e-mailed statement.

Beilenson focused his attention on funding for the state's Alcohol and Drug Abuse Administration, which was $131 million in fiscal 2004 and increased to $132 million in fiscal 2006. Fawell said funding for the agency is expected to increase to $138 million this year.

Beilenson, who acknowledged that his event was coordinated with the O'Malley campaign, said that to adequately address the problem of addiction, state funding should increase by at least 50 percent.

The event follows a series of crime-focused television advertisements by the Ehrlich campaign, including one charging that O'Malley failed in his promise to reduce homicides to 175 a year, and that Baltimore is "more deadly than New York or Washington, D.C."

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