Last night, a wide range of advocates, activists, families touched by addiction, and other community members packed Red Emma’s for a Talking About Addiction event focused on youth, addiction, and the juvenile justice system. The speakers included Evan Elkin (with the microphone, above), executive director of Reclaiming Futures, a Portland, Oregon-based organization established to build, run and test a six-step model that promotes new standards of care and opportunities in juvenile justice, Dr. Hoover Adger, a professor in adolescent health at Johns Hopkins Children’s Center, and Carin Callan Miller, founder of Save Our Children Peer Family Support Group. Scott Nolen, director of OSI-Baltimore’s Drug Addiction Treatment program, moderated the discussion.
Elkin explained how race determines which young people are most likely to receive treatment for substance use issues and which are more likely to end up in the juvenile justice system. “There are two public health systems in America, one for people of color, one for whites,” he said, adding that stigma around addiction prevents people from getting the medical treatment they need. “Stigma is the enemy of health. Can you imagine a world where it was unlawful to have asthma or diabetes?”
Dr. Adger talked about his experiences working with families in Baltimore and about the obstacles to providing equitable healthcare. “We don’t have an adequate healthcare infrastructure in Baltimore,” he said. “It’s about politics, it’s about power, it’s about race.”
Callan-Miller and several people in attendance got emotional while discussing struggles they or members of their families had with addiction. Some expressed frustration that reform is not coming fast enough, but Nolen suggested that the paradigm is finally shifting around addiction treatment.
The Juvenile Justice Information Exchange attended the event and posted a recap and some great photos. Elkin and Nolen also joined the Marc Steiner Show on WEAA the morning of the event for a hour-long discussion, which is now available on the show’s podcast.