Letter to Governor 2 | Substance Abuse | Politics

2/12/2014

Dear Governor O’Malley: I am seeking resolution regarding the disparity between substance abuse treatment services outlined in the Montgomery County contract with Maryland Treatment Centers and the actual services which consumers are receiving. I am writing to respectfully request the following:  An investigation into the disparity between the services contracted for, as outlined in the License Agreement Between Montgomery County, Maryland and Maryland Treatment Centers (Attachment #1: License) and the services that consumers actually receive at Avery Road Treatment Center (ARTC), as reported by family members and consumers of services; and  An investigation into the legitimacy of the Montgomery County Local Drug and Alcohol Abuse Council (LDAAC) to disallow discussion or investigation into the aforementioned disparities. I have outlined areas where there are disparities between the ARTC License Agreement and the experiences of consumers (Attachment #2: Disparities). Attempts to resolve this issue at a local level have not been successful. 1) I attempted to bring this issue to the policy table through the LDAAC at both the September and October meetings. While members were willing to discuss the need for repairs to the building in great detail and subsequently propose that our County Executive request building funds from the state, they refused to discuss the services disparity, stating that to do so would be “insulting” to the Executive Director of the ARTC and other ARTC employees who are members of the LDAAC. When I insisted that this issue warrants further examination, the Chair of the LDAAC implemented a new rule disallowing non-voting members from speaking until the final five minutes of the council, thereby silencing any further discussion regarding discrepancies in the License Agreement. During the past four years that I have participated on the LDAAC, community members have always been able to speak freely during the entirety of the meeting. According to Debbie Green, Director of Treatment and Recovery Services at ADAA, one of the primary purposes of LDAACs are to include the input of “knowledgeable citizens” in the “identification and recommendations regarding system improvements”. These recent LDAAC actions, which serve to protect the for-profit treatment provider from public scrutiny and accountability, seem to be contrary to the spirit in which the LDAACs were created. It would seem that the LDAAC is willing to represent the interests of for-profit treatment providers at the expense of the community which it purportedly serves. 2) On November 3rd, I wrote to the Montgomery County Council’s Committee on Health and Human Services (HHS), asking them to address treatment issues with ARTC. I received a reply, suggesting that I continue raising the issue with County HHS officials, even though I am an unpaid volunteer and not a paid consultant or lobbyist. 3) On January 7th, three parents and an ARTC alumni, met with Uma Ahluwalia, Director, Montgomery County DHHS to report their experiences with ARTC. They each provided anecdotal evidence to show that they did not receive the services which ARTC is contracted by the County to provide. Ms. Ahluwalia sent me an email on January 10th, stating that she would postpone articulating “clearly outlined next steps” until an unspecified future time.

4) These same families scheduled a meeting with County Executive, Isiah Leggett for February 3rd. However, we were informed shortly before the meeting that Executive Leggett did not have time to meet with us, and Mike Subin would be meeting in his place. In reply to one young adult’s account of rampant illicit drug use inside the ARTC, Mr. Subin commented that all treatment facilities, like jails, are full of contraband. In reality, Mr. Subin has no idea which facilities may have contraband and which do not, and he was obviously not willing to rely on information provided by individuals and families who have actually utilized many of the treatment facilities throughout the state. Mr. Subin also stated that he would not be able to discuss this issue with Mr. Leggett until sometime in April, more than two months away, and we could expect a response from the County Executive “sometime in the next 4 ½ years”. In light of Mr. Subin’s notoriety for “bullying” community advocates, as noted in several online articles, the members of our committee found it inappropriate for the County Executive to delegate Mr. Subin to meet with us in his absence. 5) Lastly, a colleague from another Montgomery County grassroots advocacy organization relayed that she had received phone calls from three county officials attempting to discredit our legitimate complaints involving county contracts. Frankly, the lack of responsiveness of county officials in addressing the discrepancies between a written contract with a service provider and clear anecdotal evidence from consumers receiving those services has been disappointing at best. We are beginning to wonder why our county officials and agency administrators are shielding a for-profit treatment provider from legitimate complaints by concerned citizens. We are aware that there is a substantial block of funding flowing from the federal government, through the state, and into county programs, including the ARTC. This is tax payer money and we have a right to ask how it is being spent. Three programs owned by Maryland Treatment Centers show combined revenues of approximately 25 million dollars. We are calling for an unbiased and thorough investigation into whether:  ARTC is acting within the legitimate parameters of the County License Agreement; and  The LDAAC operated appropriately by refusing to discuss community concerns regarding obvious and glaring contract discrepancies. Apparently, Cecil County Councilwoman, Diana Broomell, has had similar complaints regarding her LDAAC’s failure to allow legitimate community concerns to reach the policy table. It is my understanding that she has already sent you a letter outlining those problems. Additionally, the grassroots organization Project Hope, in Frederick County, has had similar complaints regarding their County LDAAC. I await your timely reply regarding this grave matter. Please make good on your promise to reduce overdose deaths in Maryland, by taking these allegations in the serious light with which they are intended. Please feel free to contact me by phone at 240-370-1436 or by email at LisaALowe@aol.com. Respectfully, Lisa Lowe Heroin Action Coalition of Montgomery County

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