Walden/Sierra Chief Appointed to New State Drug & Alcohol Council

RANDALLSTOWN, Md. (July 22, 2008) – Kathleen O’Brien, Ph.D., the executive director of St. Mary's County-based Walden/Sierra, was one of eight people appointed today to the newly chartered Maryland Drug and Alcohol Council. Governor Martin O’Malley today signed the executive order that establishes the council.

The council membership includes 10 members from the Governor’s Cabinet, two members from the General Assembly, two members from the Judiciary, and eight members appointed by the Governor.

The panel will primarily be tasked with the identification, development and recommendation of comprehensive systemic improvements in the organization and delivery of drug and alcohol abuse prevention, intervention and treatment services in Maryland.

The executive order also asks the Council to:

-- Prepare and annually update a two-year plan that establishes priorities and strategies for the organization, delivery and funding of state drug and alcohol abuse prevention, intervention and treatment services; done in coordination with the identified needs of the citizens of the state, the general public and the criminal justice population; with strategies and priorities established by the local drug and alcohol abuse councils;

-- Support the work of the local drug and alcohol abuse councils by facilitating the coordination and communication among the councils, local state agencies and departments, public and private providers; technical assistance will be provided as needed;

-- Prepare annual surveys of all federal and state resources used to fund substance abuse prevention, intervention and treatment services; review the allocation of such funds by relevant state agencies to identify gaps in service delivery, duplication of services, and opportunities for improved coordination and collaboration to insure cost effective and quality services, and consistency with policy priorities established in the state plan; and

-- Facilitate improved linkages of the court, criminal justice and correctional systems with existing drug and alcohol abuse services.

The Maryland Drug and Alcohol Council was originally created by Executive Order in 2004. The new Council, established with today’s Executive Order, differs from the original in several ways. The new Council adds two additional departments as voting members (Department of Transportation and the Department of Housing and Community Development), thus ensuring all agencies that have drug and alcohol funding are included. The new Council also emphasizes the panel’s role in facilitating local planning of services, improving linkages between the criminal justice system and substance abuse services, and outlines the ways in which gubernatorial appointments should be representative of the State and the drug and alcohol treatment community.

“Addiction has taken a toll on nearly every aspect of our society,” Governor O’Malley said. “Using a comprehensive and collaborative approach, this Council will not only be a forum to address needed solutions, but it will establish the priorities and strategies for addiction services available for Marylanders in need. It is our obligation to ensure that those vulnerable citizens who find themselves in the clutches of addiction receive the adequate treatment they want and deserve.”

“Governor O’Malley’s support of the council will enable us to use resources more effectively and focus on the problem from a broader perspective,” said Secretary Colmers. “This collaboration will enable us to make improvements in how services are delivered, while also focusing our attention on the problem of addiction beyond health care. Involvement of the business community, the school system, and other key partners is critical to ending the grip of alcohol and drug abuse on the lives of Marylanders and their families.”

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