Ericka Alston-Buck: A Path To Recovery Is Needed To Lift Maryland Out Of Opioid Crisis

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Our state is currently facing an epidemic that has robbed us of the potential greatness of nearly 2000 of our neighbors in 2016. The abuse of Opioid drugs is indeed wreaking havoc on families and communities in every corner of Maryland, especially Baltimore.

Everyday I serve a community that is being torn apart from the use of illegal and illicit drugs. I hear their stories. I see their struggle. I wipe their tears.

I also see their courage as many of them are fighting to get clean so they can assume their rightful place within their families and become productive members of society. These people need allies in their battle to sobriety and that includes leaders who advocate for solid public policy that helps addicts get and stay clean.

Just last month Governor Larry Hogan took a noteworthy action when he allocated an additional 10 million dollars to fight opioid addiction in Maryland. He is to be applauded for that important first step. Unfortunately though, as details of the American Health Care Act are revealed, we learn that repeal of the American Care Act means that Maryland could lose over $200 million in current federal medical funds currently being used to combat overdoses. This would represent a significant step backwards for those on the path to sobriety and recovery. Our communities cannot withstand such a drastic loss in resources.

In Attorney General Frosh, Maryland has a committed champion as an ally in the fight against addiction. Mr. Frosh is one of 42 other Attorneys General in America to join an antitrust lawsuit against Reckitt Benckiser the makers of Suboxone.  This action will stop this company from illegally manipulating the market for these important drugs solely for profit. This is dastardly and takes advantage of an already vulnerable population. In my opinion, we should be making access to these critical drugs easier, not harder; and more affordable.

Another point of progress in Maryland was an action taken by the Maryland Medicaid agency , when they replaced Suboxone on the state’s preferred drug list with Zubsolv, an improved yet similar drug treatment that is operating legally and not price-fixing their drug. This is an example of good public policy that benefits those who are fighting addiction.

In this critical battle for the sobriety of our sons, daughters, mothers and fathers, I implore that our elected leaders follow the lead of Governor Hogan and Attorney General Frosh by redoubling our efforts to fight and treat opioid addiction in our state. This includes increased funding for addiction counseling as well as abuse prevention programs; and supporting programs that deal with the trauma associated with addiction- for individuals and families. There is also legislation being proposed that will cut funding for the administration of drug testing, a needed component to insure that those in treatment are engaged and staying clean. This is bad public policy and will guarantee that use, abuse and overdoses will increase. We cannot allow this to happen.

I am living proof that we do recover, live and thrive.  There are no spare Marylanders and we must continue to fight for all of our neighbors to reach their full potential.

Ericka L. Alston-Buck, CEO of Maryland Community Health Initiatives, Inc. Penn-North Recovery Center

 

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