City police right not to try for state heroin funds

Baltimore needs a comprehensive approach to addiction.

Regarding your headline "Maryland awards $3 million to fight heroin, but not in Baltimore" (Aug. 8), the state of Maryland did not award money to "fight" heroin.

Maryland offered funding limited in time and scope for specific law enforcement projects. Only police departments were invited to apply for it. The money was given with a tight string, and spending it according to the imposed limits might have caused more harm than good.

The Police Department's decision not to apply for that particular funding is reasonable. The city must look to create a comprehensive and rational approach that coordinates treatment, public safety and prevention efforts. Doing a little here and a little there is a proven path to failure.

A well-reasoned plan must be created in partnership between public health and public safety. Start-up funding to cement partnerships and a shared approaches are required. Pilot projects of innovative programs and building foundations to create long-term solutions are necessary.

Gov. Larry Hogan's administration has taken actions over the last two months that severely impeded proven solutions. First, they refused to spend money legislators set aside for an initiative Baltimore City already had in place that was working: Operation Safe Streets. Second, Mr. Hogan's administration is also responsible for severely limiting medications available through Medicaid to treat people with heroin and opiate addiction.

These two actions have seriously diminished the city's efforts to "fight heroin." That is the real issue.

Why isn't the state offering funding for comprehensive programs that address the entirety of the problem? Mr. Hogan should comply with the recommendations of his own task force and allow each jurisdiction to develop effective and comprehensive solutions tied to their needs.

Deborah Agus, Baltimore

The writer is executive director of the Behavioral Health Leadership Institute.

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