Statement to Recovery Anne Arundel Candidate Forum - October 1

Statement to Recovery Anne Arundel Candidate Forum - October 1

I want to express my regret at being unable to attend Recovery Anne Arundel’s forum tonight.

As a candidate for county executive it is my obligation to understand the challenges facing the thousands of good people, be they neighbors or family, who are suffering from addiction. It is also my obligation to understand the challenges facing the organizations that are working to put these people on the path to recovery.

Like many of you, my family has suffered from the loss of a promising young life to heroin overdose. This has to stop.

There is a temptation by politicians and candidates for office to pretend that they have all the answers. I learned through my many years of work as a community organizer and as a businessperson that listening is where progress begins.

I want to share with you some of what I’ve heard, and what I believe.

Addiction is a disease.

The medical community is seeking to eradicate this disease.

Effective treatment includes medication, counseling, and love.

Buprenorphine, methadone, and naltrexone are widely acknowledged to be effective treatments, but are difficult to obtain for addicts who are not enrolled in treatment programs. Efforts to expand access to these drugs are underway across the country, and if we are to save lives in our county, we must be at the forefront of this movement.

The NIH estimates that only ten percent of Americans who suffer from a substance use disorder receive treatment. I suspect that the treatment gap in our county is no better. We must close the gap, but we must also ensure that people can access medication from doctors, even when they are not enrolled in a program. Without that medication too many turn to fentanyl-laced heroin and die.

Doctors avoid treating addiction for many reasons, but one is intimidation from politicians and attorneys seeking to assign blame. Doctors are cutting back on opioid prescriptions not because politicians demand it, but because they are sworn to a Hippocratic Oath.

If I am elected I will direct our Department of Health to work with addiction treatment providers on a plan to engage more of the medical community in expanding access to medication and treatment.

I have visited three addiction treatment centers in our county and intend to get to the rest. All have expressed a desire to expand their services, and all have said that their primary obstacle is location. Two of the three that I visited are on the state’s Crownsville Hospital Center property.

Tonight I am meeting with residents of the Crownsville area to discuss acquiring the hospital center property from the state. We would do this to protect the organizations operating there and to create a park. I am working with the Generals Highway Council of Civic Organizations on a plan that would be financed in part by transforming wastewater spray fields there to community solar farms. This may be the only community in our county that is actively supporting addiction treatment in their own backyard, and we should embrace them.

I have also explored with some of you the idea of transforming the dormitory-style wing of the low security Ordnance Detention Center from a federal holding facility for immigrants awaiting their hearings to an addiction treatment facility in partnership with local treatment providers. While nobody likes the optics of going to a detention center for addiction treatment, it has been argued to me that separate branding and site improvements could make this a viable project.

I am proud of the work that our county agencies have done to date. Not My Child, Safe Stations, and our Crisis Response and Intervention Teams show that this community is mobilized to combat this epidemic. I would take it a step further.

An important part of my plan for county government in general is to join with jurisdictions across the country who practice open government and data-driven policy development.

We know, for instance, that 1000 people have come to our Safe Stations, but the county has been unwilling to share statistics about where those people have been sent for treatment, whether they have been accepted into treatment programs, and how they have fared.

I believe that statistics such as these must be collected and shared publicly. Opening the window of government programs to the public and to stakeholders involved in this work is essential to progress. It encourages accountability, and it broadens the networks involved in problem-solving.

I do not have information on the state’s process to apply for the $66 million in SAMHSA funding, or how much we can expect to come to our county. I can promise, however, that Anne Arundel County under my leadership will aggressively pursue every federal, state, and private dollar that exists to combat this epidemic. We will do this in collaboration with those of you who are eligible to receive these funds.

My pledge to all of you is that if I am elected, we will set politics aside, bring together the best minds in the field, pursue every financial resource available, and pursue a robust program of prevention and treatment of substance use disorders.

We are in this together, all of us.

Posted on 01 Oct 2018, 01:16 - Category: Campaign News

By Authority of Friends of Steuart Pittman, VIrginia Clagett Treasurer
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