WASHINGTON – Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Baltimore, on Tuesday blasted cuts to anti-drug programs in President Bush’s proposed FY 2007 budget, and guaranteed that Congress will reinstate the funding.
Speaking at the 16th annual conference of the Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America, Cummings called the cuts “out of line” and said Congress will defeat them. The budget request would eliminate 63 anti-drug programs and nearly a half-billion dollars in funding for drug and alcohol prevention, treatment and research, according to the CADCA.
“The president is wrong again,” Cummings said following his speech. “But we will defeat those cuts. The Congress did it last year, and we’ll do it again.”
The drug problem in the United States must be attacked through prevention, treatment and interdiction, he said. To get necessary funding for these programs, anti-drug advocates must take a different approach to lobbying.
Cummings also called for a higher level of integrity in drug-treatment plans, saying that in too many cases people bounce from program to program without being helped.
“We have spent a lot of time trying to make sure there was honesty in treatment,” Cummings said. “But people still feel they’re being duped.”
With CADCA members set to lobby on Capitol Hill later in the day, Cummings challenged them to refocus their efforts. Too often, anti-drug groups waste their time talking to legislators who already support them.
“Don’t come to me — I’m already on your side,” boomed Cummings, his voice resounding throughout the hall. “Concentrate on people who are not on your side. Don’t waste your time on people who are already with you.”
He also urged members to share real-life stories of how anti-drug programs have worked.
“The fact remains, we have a lot of success stories — and we have to pull them out,” he said. “One of the best things folks can bring before Congress is folks who have been on that side of it and who can say, ‘Look, this is what happened to me.'”
A resident of Baltimore’s Inner Harbor for 25 years, Cummings said he sees the devastating effects of drug addiction every day.
“It is not unusual in my neighborhood to see 14-year-olds addicted to crack cocaine,” he said. “There’s something about the draw of drugs.
“Drugs will make a woman sell her baby,” said Cummings, pausing to let the words sink in. “Did you hear what I said? Drugs will make a woman give up her baby.”
Drugs and alcohol affect not only users, but also people who try to help them, Cummings said.
“Anybody who has worked with a drug addict — my goodness,” he said. “What a job. You try to put these people back together again, but you get discouraged because they keep falling apart.”
Cummings called for more research on drug treatment programs, citing a 2002 study of 1,000 Baltimore City residents that found people in such programs to be healthier, less likely to engage in unprotected sex and more likely to be employed. The study, conducted by Morgan State University, Johns Hopkins University and the University of Maryland School of Medicine in Baltimore, found that the drug users spent an average of $150 a day on their habit.
The study showed drug-treatment programs are viable, he said, but the key is connecting with legislators at a personal level.
“All of us have a story,” Cummings said. “We may not think our stories are significant, but our stories are about saving lives.”
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