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Mobtown Beat

Walk for Drug Recovery

Baltimore celebrates national recovery month

By Edward Ericson Jr. | Posted 9/23/2009

City drug-treatment officials are hoping to attract more than 1,000 people to the third annual "Recovery Walk and Rally" on Saturday, Sept. 26.

"It's a really big deal," says Saundra Flowers, project director for the Northwest Baltimore Drug Free Community Coalition, one of the sponsoring organizations. "We're looking for between 1,000 and 1,500 people."

The march will begin with an 8 a.m. registration and 8:30 a.m. worship service at the Lord's Church of Baltimore, 5010 Park Heights Ave. There will be free hot dogs and drinks, live entertainment, face painting, and two moon bounces, Flowers says, "so the little children can have their own moon bounce."

Participants will walk to Frederick Douglass High School, 2301 Gwynns Falls Parkway, about 2.8 miles, and rally in celebration of drug-free life and in support of drug-treatment providers. The rally will break up at 2 p.m.

September is "recovery month," a national observance and celebration of substance-abuse treatment, treatment providers, and people recovering from alcohol and drug addiction. Baltimore's first recovery walk attracted several hundred people according to Mark Hart, an event organizer. Last year's walk was plagued by rain.

"We still had about 250 people that showed up," says Carlos Hardy, director of public affairs for the Baltimore Substance Abuse Systems, Inc. (bSAS), the quasi-public umbrella organization that coordinates Baltimore's drug-treatment providers. Last year's group walked the 3-mile route during a break in the weather, he says.

BSAS-funded programs serve about 23,000 people per year at a cost of about $50 million, according to its web site. Studies have shown that every dollar spent on drug treatment saves about $7 in decreased crime and other social ills. BSAS is trying to increase funding for its programs, particularly a 3-year-old experiment in administering Buprenorphine, which suppresses heroin-withdrawal symptoms.

The city's Buprenorphine program just won a "Model Practice" award from the National Association of County and City Health Organizations. "We're looked at as an innovative system," Hardy says.

This year marks the 20th anniversary of national recovery month.

The Baltimore walk and rally has six honorary co-chairs, including Gov. Martin O'Malley (D) and Mayor Sheila Dixon (D). State Delegates Peter Hammen (D-46th) and William Bronrott (D-16th) are expected to attend, organizers say.

"We're pulling together the community," Flowers says. "It's not just about people in recovery. It's about the whole community."

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