Over the course of the last year, as the opioid crisis and heroin epidemic has risen drastically throughout Maryland and Washington DC, numerous attempts to combat this growing addiction issue have taken place. Maryland Governor Larry Hogan dispatched a Heroin Task Force to research the problem and offer solutions. Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake did the same. Additionally, many local county organizations came together to attempt to discuss the growing addiction problem and offer solutions. Many town halls and community discussions took place. Most recently, Maryland Delegate Dan Morhaim proposed several pieces of new legislation that take a page out of former Baltimore Mayor Kurt Schmoke’s 1980’s playbook, pushing for a decriminalization of drugs. Morhaim took it a step further by saying the state should implement staffed and supervised areas where people could go use heroin and other drugs legally, in order to cut down on overdose deaths and disease transmissions through shared needles.
These “solutions” to the state addiction problem run the gamut from too general to pointless to impossible to downright insane. The good thing that is happening is that politicians in Baltimore and throughout Maryland are finally beginning to talk about addiction not as criminal issue but as a public health issue. Addicts are beginning to be looked at as sick people in need of treatment and not incarceration. The stigma of addiction is being broken and the illness of addiction is being brought to light. However, the bad or unfortunate thing that is taking place is that throughout all this chatter, no one is actually offering the most basic, most effective solution: Long-term, comprehensive addiction treatment for those suffering from substance use disorders in Maryland.
Why is this? Why is no one truly offering a solution to the addiction epidemic taking place here? Sure, words like “prevention” and “education” get thrown around a lot. Certainly, drug education and prevention strategies are important but we’ve had those for many years, from Nancy Reagan’s “Just Say No” to “D.A.R.E.” At best, they have been mildly effective. Words like “harm reduction” are used a lot. Sure, no one is against harm reduction, preventing overdose deaths or lowering the exchange of deadly diseases. That being said, harm reduction has also been around for years and while it certainly reduces the number of overdose deaths, it does little to actually combat addiction head on. One of the biggest buzzwords currently is “Medication-Assisted Treatment”, the use of FDA approved medications in conjunction with counseling, therapy and regular drug testing. This sounds like a good option, but as we dissected in a previous blog (https://www.marylandaddictionrecovery.com/medication-assisted-treatment), the regulations surrounding MAT have allowed this type of treatment to be an ineffective Medication AS Treatment approach and just another harm reduction option rather than actual comprehensive treatment.
And even the word “treatment” gets thrown around a lot in these discussions, but no one has yet actually offered it as a solution. People talk about “increasing access to treatment” or “making sure addicts can get the treatment they need” but NO ONE IS TALKING ABOUT WHERE THAT TREATMENT WILL COME FROM. Detailed in articles discussing his proposed policies, Delegate Morhaim discusses using the hospital ERs throughout the state and these other specified areas where addicts will be able to use under supervision as access points where they will eventually get placed into treatment. A great idea in theory, other than the fact that we currently don’t have enough treatment beds and treatment facilities in Maryland to handle the current need, much less when every ER or designated “using” areas are directing people to get help. WHERE WILL THE TREATMENT COME FROM? There is a very basic and practical solution here: Open up more treatment centers in Maryland. Take millions of state dollars and open up treatment facilities. Furthermore, take a page out of the playbook of Massachusetts and ask that private facilities also open up in the Baltimore, Maryland and Washington DC area. However, that would mean that Maryland take drastic steps in making it possible for treatment facilities to open and operate within the state. As it presently stands, the current landscape of legal and political red tape make it almost impossible to do.
Politicians love to grandstand and talk about how we are in the midst of an addiction epidemic and that we are doing everything we can to combat the heroin crisis and addiction issues facing Maryland.
Unfortunately, the truth is everything thus far has been just that, talk. Talking medications, overdoses and legal shooting galleries gets people on the news. It’s sexy. Treatment is not sexy and does not bring a media storm of attention. The problem is that more and more people are dealing with addiction problems and more and more people are dying as a result of the disease of addiction. The solution, just like that of any other disease, is long term comprehensive treatment. More treatment centers. More skilled therapists. More detox and rehab beds. More treatment. Is seems fairly simple. So why hasn’t anyone proposed a practical plan to make it happen? Until someone comes out and says we need more treatment and we need to make it possible for good providers to open up facilities in the state of Maryland, there is very little hope that any of this political grandstanding will make much of a difference.
If you or someone you know is in need of help because of drug and/or alcohol abuse or addiction, please give us a call. Maryland Addiction Recovery Center offers the most comprehensive dual diagnosis substance abuse treatment in the Baltimore, Maryland, Washington, DC and Virginia area. If we aren’t the best fit for you or your loved one, we will take the necessary time to work with you to find a treatment center or provider that better fits your needs. Please give us a call at (410) 773-0500 or email our team at [email protected]. For more information on all of our drug addiction and alcohol addiction services and recovery resources, please visit our web site at www.marylandaddictionrecovery.com.