Md. Gov. Backs Drug Treatment; Spending At Issue

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Maryland Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. touted drug treatment as an alternative to prison for nonviolent offenders as he launched a panel to coordinate Maryland’s fight against substance abuse, reports the Washington Post. “As regard to treatment, I believe in it,” Ehrlich said during a morning visit to a parole and probation office in the Maryland suburbs of Washington, D.C. “We know treatment works. The facts are treatment works.”

Ehrlich introduced Andrew L. Sonner, a retired judge of the Maryland Court of Special Appeals and former Montgomery County prosecutor, as chairman of the new Maryland State Drug and Alcohol Abuse Council. The panel will oversee the efforts of county drug and alcohol abuse councils that were established by the state legislature. The law seeks to divert nonviolent drug offenders into treatment rather than prison. The bill, which called for spending $3 million to set up treatment programs, passed in this year’s session with widespread bipartisan support. It is expected to save money on incarceration. Herbert Howard of Montgomery Recovery Services, a for-profit drug treatment center, was surprised to hear such rhetoric from a Republican governor. “Usually, the right side is for law and order,” said Howard. “But I got the sense that he’s serious about what he’s talking about.” Sen. Brian E. Frosh questioned whether Ehrlich had put enough money into diverting offenders to drug treatment. “I think the initiative is commendable,” said Frosh. “But $3 million doesn’t get you very far.”


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