A recent survey conducted in Western Maryland signals even greater support for programs that address substance use disorders as well as training for first responders dealing with the issue.
A Maryland Matters article, highlighted a recent poll showing bipartisan support in Western Maryland for federal proposals to provide more treatment for people with substance use disorders as well as resources to train police to divert people into treatment rather than prison. The public opinion survey conducted by the University of Maryland School of Public Policy published 9 pages of findings from the poll. Although diversion training would be useful, appropriate community placements and programs are not always available in Maryland.
A shortage of diversion opportunities leads individuals in need of treatment into the carceral setting where issues can get compounded. Local police officers are regularly responding to and dealing with individuals committing low-level offenses while trying to gain access to illicit drugs. If treatment, or some other accountability mechanism, is not in place to support recovery the severity of these crimes are often shown to escalate leading to required incarceration. Incarceration is not an ideal setting to treat severe substance use disorders even though there are programs in local correctional facilities that can provide medication-assisted treatment (MAT) to help incarcerated individuals avoid an overdose upon release.
With new resources to bolster community placements for treatment and recovery, local detention centers would retain more resources to care for the individuals who need services and have a criminal record that would require incarceration. Additional avenues for diversion would undoubtedly alleviate some of the substance use disorder health care costs that local detention centers are routinely covering as a result of the State’s failure to fulfill health care obligations for incarcerated individuals, such as MAT funding and mental health transfers.
Recent legislation from the 2023 session, established the Maryland Commission on Behavioral Health Care Treatment and Access that could help funnel these resources into affective strategies. In the bills original version, local detention centers were not included as commission members, but with local law enforcement and correctional facilities being a primary touch point for these communities it is a striking omission. One state corrections representative position was included. MACo has been in ongoing discussions with a number of architects on the bill and local law enforcement and corrections positions could be forthcoming.