As a retired County employee serving as the Procurement Manager in the Department of Finance, a member of the Marcey House Board for five (5) years, a member of the Human Services Council for a year, and the mother of a deceased alcoholic, I had a lot of experience dealing with substance abuse and mental health. Because of this experience, I feel it is important to address the questions that you asked as follows:
1. Would you like more County resources spent to combat drug abuse? This question is an important one because I feel it is not a matter of more resources spent but how it is spent. For over 20 years the County had a facility referred to as the Marcey House, which was a certified co-occurring/dual diagnosis facility (halfway house) which provided substance abuse and mental health for 15 clients as well as monitoring and management of medications provided by a certified psychiatrist, Dr. Donald Taylor. This facility was mostly funded by the State with only between $182,000 to $200,000 provided by the County. Payment by the clients was based on a sliding scale regarding their ability to pay. The Board of County Commissioners voted to terminate this facility in 2011. The reason that was given was budget cuts. With that vote, although it was identified as a cost saving exercise, the County lost the best facility not only in St. Mary’s County but in the State of Maryland. Individuals were not just sentenced to be in this facility, they wanted to be there to learn how to live in recovery, get a job where they could live on their own, and stay clean and sober. The Marcey House saved lives. The termination of that facility basically created a sole source environment for Walden. A bid for services was prepared by The Department of Human Resources and Walden was considered the only responsive bidder. The bid was not handled by the Office of Procurement as all other bids are prepared and executed. Why? I don’t have the answer to this question.
2. Which area would you like to see the money spent? I would like to see the money spent on how best we can meet the needs of our mental health and substance abuse system. I feel that the only way to do this is to prepare a Request for Proposal for services through the Office of Procurement where fair and open competition are a basis for evaluation and award. A committee should be formed to prepare the solicitation and evaluate the bids. This committee should be comprised of individuals not having any political ties with the Commissioners and should have experience with substance abuse and mental health.
3. Do you have a new idea that you would like us to try in combating drug use? There are new drugs, such as soboxone treatment, used every day with some success. This drug is very expensive and there are a lot of individuals that do not have insurance which is another problem in this area.There is no magic bullet when dealing with substance abuse and mental health. It all depends on the person and their commitment to getting clean and sober. Alcoholics Anonymous and the 12 step program is still very important as is the Alanon program for friends and family of alcoholics/addicts. Addiction is a disease for which there is no cure except hard work and commitment. You cannot have one without the other.
I would like to thank you for this opportunity to voice my opinion on a matter that is very important. I know many people in the community that have been affected by the loss of a loved one because of drug use of a family member or friend. Please make this a priority in St. Mary’s County. We once had the best facility in the State of Maryland and with work and commitment we can once again be a leader in this area.
Carol H. Gallagher