05 February 2015
Not in my backyard, Maryland edition
Heroin is certainly not unique to Maryland. But Baltimore is widely regarded as the "Heroin Capital" of the United States. Estimates from the federal government and the Baltimore Department of Health suggest that Baltimore is home to 48,000-60,000 addicts; or nearly a tenth of the city's population. And this epidemic has spilled into Baltimore's suburbs, too. Heroin's link to Baltimore also spawned a popular, but ultimately disturbing website that chronicles anecdotal evidence of heroin users in and around the city. When it comes to heroin, The Wire was not too far from the mark.
Maryland Governor Larry Hogan has highlighted the state's heroin epidemic several times since the election in November, and made it a priority in his state of the state address on Wednesday. Anne Arundel County Executive Steve Schuh has done the same.
The most effective treatment for heroin addiction is methadone. The staple of a heroin-addicted community is the methadone clinic. It should not be surprising, then, that fighting the heroin problem means putting these clinics in the communities where heroin is a problem.
Recent plans to open a methadone clinic on Hogs Neck Road in Pasadena in Anne Arundel County came to a screeching halt in the face of massive opposition from the community. Sadly, some went way too far in opposing the clinic by making death threats against the owner.
I suspect if you surveyed the people who oppose the clinic, many people would believe that the clinic's customers are from Baltimore City or somewhere else, and that the clinic is bringing drug addicts into their neighborhoods. But in reality, the addicts already live in those neighborhoods. The heroin problem will not go away because communities oppose methadone clinics in their neighborhoods. But the heroin addicts who live in those neighborhoods will have to go father to get treatment. Behind the facade, our otherwise-picturesque communities are dotted with halfway houses, group homes, parolees, probationers, and sex offenders. We cannot ignore the problem by pretending it doesn't exist in our supposedly-idyllic neighborhoods. It's here and we need to confront it.