Today, women legislators of the House Republican Caucus stood together in support of policies and programs that keep Maryland’s children safe. “In the wake of recent tragedies, much of the priority and focus of the conversation has been on firearms,” said House Minority Whip, Jeannie Haddaway-Riccio. “If our true intention is to make our children and communities safer, we need to redirect the conversation to solving the core causes of these unsafe environments and incidents.”
The group highlighted the underfunding and lack of access to mental health assistance programs, addressing existing threats of substance abuse and neighborhood violence, and assessing and rectifying vulnerabilities in Maryland’s schools. Existing programs in Maryland such as county Local Management Boards and Problem-Solving Courts have strong track records in providing much-needed assistance to struggling families and children.
“In lean budget times, the State must make funding decisions based on its priorities, and judging by the O’Malley/Brown Budget proposal, increasing services to our most vulnerable citizens is not a priority,” commented Del. Addie Eckardt. “By adequately funding existing state and county programs that are doing good work, we can ensure that at-risk youth and their families have access to the critical early-intervention and mental health assistance services they need to prevent future crisis.”
Other women legislators pointed to the existing risks of substance abuse and related violence in Maryland schools. “We need to address the risks inside school walls as well as those outside,” said Del. Kelly Schulz. “17% of high school students use drugs during the school day, 44% know a classmate who is selling drugs in school, and 86% know of a classmate that is abusing drugs in school. If we are serious about keeping our children safe, we need to get serious about enforcing the maximum penalties for drug-related and violent crimes, especially for those that occur in school.”
The group was united in its advocacy for assessments of school security and working with stakeholders to create safe physical campuses for children to learn. “We applaud the work our schools are already doing to create a safer environment for our children, but we need to do more” commented Del. Nancy Stocksdale. “Our children deserve a place where they can get a good education and just be children.”
“Over the next few weeks you will be hearing a lot of loud voices on both sides of the firearms issue. As Republican women, we want the Governor to hear our voice and address our concerns which do not demonize law abiding citizens but instead speak to real dangers to our families.” concluded Del. Kathy Afzali.
Also in attendance were Del. Gail Bates, Del. Susan Aumann, Del. Cathy Vitale and Del. Susan McComas.