Today marks the start of National Public Health Week. NPHW is an annual effort to promote the idea that everyone deserves to live a long and healthy life in a safe environment. Unsurprisingly, the first day of this year's NPHW focuses on behavioral health, mental health and opioid addiction. It's no surprise that everywhere in our city - and in our country - people are struggling with addiction, loneliness, and declining mental health.
Right here in our district, we are no strangers to addiction and the struggles of unaddressed mental health issues. Before it was opioids, it was crack cocaine and the original opioid, heroin. Until opioids made their way to the suburbs, however, the victims of their addictive properties were treated as irredeemable, as violent criminals rather than sufferers of a terrible affliction.
Now that the color of drug dependency has lightened, public opinion has changed. This is a sad commentary, but it's something we can use to our advantage right here in Baltimore City and our district.
With greater sympathy and understanding for those drowning in the river of addiction, we have an opportunity to adopt a scientifically sound, evidence-based, and public-health-oriented approach to our shared drug problem. No longer do we need to settle for unsuccessful, reactionary, and racist "tough-on-crime" strategies. Now is our time to address addiction at its root and stop the tired and unhelpful rhetoric of law and order.
This National Public Health Week, let us all come together to combat addiction, not addicts. By ending the overprescribing of opioids, holding drug companies accountable, and providing equitable access to mental health services, we can address dependency at its roots rather than criminalizing its victims.