Baltimore County Halts Shock Tours As Ineffective

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For 15 years, juvenile offenders in Baltimore County have seen firsthand the devastation caused by alcohol- and drug-related accidents by touring Maryland Shock Trauma Center at the end of a five-week class, the Baltimore Sun reports. Those involved said they have helped wayward teens get back on track.

The Baltimore County Health Department is eliminating the tours. Ellen R. Clayton, the county’s deputy health officer, said the program was “not necessarily proving effective … Scare tactics really is not listed as a best practice.” In the letter she gave other reasons: that the county would receive less money for substance abuse prevention programs in the fiscal year that began this week and that the tours would have to be eliminated anyway because of “confidentiality regulations.” The Sun said, however, that experts in the new federal medical privacy law said the tours could continue because patients always are asked to give permission before they are identified, satisfying confidentiality rules.

The tours have been featured on Good Morning America and received national acclaim. An annual $20,000 grant from the county, expanded to $41,000 last year, covered tours for students completing substance-abuse prevention classes in Baltimore and surrounding counties. Michael M. Gimbel, director of the county’s Bureau of Substance Abuse for nearly 23 years until he was fired in December, praised the program as “one of the most effective programs we ever ran in Baltimore County.”


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