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Overdose prevention sites better than arrest to fight addiction

Thank you Baltimore Sun editorial staff for your full endorsement of lifesaving overdose prevention Sites (“Maryland can stop overdoses by allowing safe consumption sites,” May 20). Since 1999, the opioid overdose fatality rate in Maryland has ranged from 150 percent to 300 percent of the national average. The overdose crisis that has sent our country into panic is nothing new for Maryland residents, and after 20 years of preventable losses we are ready for the state to commit to saving lives.

I saw our city’s struggles with drugs firsthand while serving in the Baltimore Police Department as an officer, a detective and overseeing a plainclothes unit. Throughout my career, I realized that we couldn’t stop addiction by arresting people who use drugs, and that those arrests destroyed our chances to build trust with the people we were sworn to protect. After retiring, I took on the role of community services director for the HARBEL Community Organization. In this position, I assist community leaders in dealing with quality of life issues that affect over 27 neighborhoods within Northeast Baltimore.

We know all too well the pains that ripple through communities when individuals are lost to overdose. If we want to help people access treatment, then we need them to live long enough to do so. Decades of research on overdose prevention sites that exist around the world shows that these sites dramatically reduce overdose and HIV transmission and bring many more people into addiction treatment. I hope House Speaker Michael Busch and Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller will give these sites a chance. Let’s prove that people who use drugs can survive long enough to reach their full potential.

Mike Hilliard, Baltimore

The writer spent 27 years with the Baltimore Police Department and is a speaker for the Law Enforcement Action Partnership, a nonprofit group of police, judges, and prosecutors who support criminal justice solutions that will improve public safety.

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