Opioid addiction: People can see growing threat

Thank you for Jeff Barker's reporting and your front page photo describing the recent hearing on the opioid addiction crisis that is rampant throughout Maryland and across our nation ("Officials make pitch for opioid help," July 28). Rep. Elijah Cummings is a true champion in proposing real solutions in reversing and reducing the devastating impact of substance use disorder.

Let me offer some cautious optimism regarding Mr. Cummings' remark that "a lot of people don't realize how significant this problem is." There is polling and anecdotal evidence that shows the general public is becoming more informed and alarmed by this epidemic. Two Quinnipiac polls in May reveal that seven in 10 Americans say that opioid addiction is "a very serious problem." More than half of all Marylanders (52 percent) personally know someone who has been affected by this addiction epidemic.

Through my roles of volunteer work at a non-profit addiction prevention and treatment organization and my day-to-day work with the drug courts in Harford County, I see employers who are experiencing difficulties in hiring workers who can pass a drug screening test. I see doctors, nurses, clinicians and first responders who are treating the new wave of patients who have overdosed and require emergency care.

Like most of my colleagues, I hear from faith-based organization leaders and congregation members who are now having their first encounters with people in addiction. The disease of substance use disorder is now on the agendas of teachers, students, law enforcement, foster care workers and providers, workforce professionals, elected officials, and many other segments in all of our communities. As more people and families become informed about the scope and immediacy of addiction, all of us need to broaden our focus on to what can we do about it. Mr. Cummings' proposed Comprehensive Addiction Resources Emergency Act (CARE) offers some real-world solutions and strategies for saving lives and salvaging families from this disease.

Don Mathis, Havre de Grace

The writer is president of Addiction Connections Resource in Harford County.

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