BALTIMORE — On Saturday, more than 700 people came to Baltimore’s War Memorial Building to listen, talk, debate, and vote on a policy plan for Baltimore’s new mayor and City Council as part of OSI’s Solutions Summit. The Baltimore Sun ran a recap of the event in its Sunday edition and the event is available to watch in full at the Solutions Summit website.
“At OSI, we’ve always recognized that, to make real change that sticks, we can’t work exclusively from the outside,” Diana Morris, director of OSI-Baltimore, said in her opening remarks. “Communities need to speak directly to leaders, to tell them what they believe, what they need, and what they want. As citizens and residents of Baltimore, our responsibility does not end on Election Day.”
In her own address at the Summit, Mayor Catherine Pugh welcomed the input, but said that community involvement must go beyond suggestions. “As your mayor, I will listen, I will hear you,” she said. “Ideas are important, suggestions can be great, collaboration is even greater.”
The 16-point Solutions Summit Action Plan, listed below, is the result of a months-long process that culminated in Saturday’s Summit. It is broken into sections for behavioral health, criminal and juvenile justice, jobs, and racial equity.
In terms of next steps from Open Society Institute-Baltimore:
- OSI will deliver this community-driven action plan to the mayor and City Council, and share it broadly with the community
- OSI will issue reports in 6, 12, and 18 months to monitor progress on these action items
- OSI will look to convene stakeholders, foundations, nonprofits and others to see where there are opportunities for us collectively or as individual groups to support the mayor and City Council in pursuing these action items.
Solutions Summit Action Plan
1) Conduct a full landscape scan of treatment and service providers throughout the city, including eligibility requirements, insurance types accepted, levels of care, services available, and number of people served annually. Include in this landscape scan service gaps by provider type, level of care, and geography. Publish this inventory in print and online, and create a mechanism to ensure that information in the inventory is verified and updated regularly. Ideally, create an online platform with live, continuously updated data on available treatment slots and program capacity.
2) Create a funding model that uses discretionary funds to support case management and peer recovery specialist services in order to provide wraparound and care coordination services to meet consumers’ needs.
3) Coordinate and launch a communications and public awareness campaign aimed at normalizing substance use disorders, changing public perception of people dealing with addiction to reduce stigma, and educating the public about treatment and recovery options.
4) Advocate for fair, non-discriminatory zoning standards that permit outpatient and residential programs to locate in communities under the same standards as other medical services.
5) Develop a training program to educate both new and veteran physicians and other front-line medical professionals on substance use disorders, their treatment options, and prescribing guidelines to reduce stigma against people dealing with addiction and the overutilization of addictive pain medications. Explore possibilities of requiring such training for city physicians and other practitioners as part of their continuing education and incorporating it into medical school curricula.
Criminal and Juvenile Justice
6) Increase the transparency of the Baltimore City Police Department (BPD).
7) Work with the Baltimore City state legislative delegation to introduce and pass a public local law to transfer the BPD from nominal state control to full Baltimore City control.
8) Remove legal and systemic barriers to employment for returning citizens and other individuals with criminal records.
9) Advocate for school discipline reform by improving conduct of school police, amending the Baltimore City student handbook, and reallocating funds from punitive school discipline practices to restorative justice practices and peer mediation.
10) Allocate resources to support Baltimore City school students through increased wrap-around services for students and their families, and increased access to social workers to address family challenges (including housing, medical and behavioral health, and legal assistance needs).
11) Use local government hiring, procurement and contracting mechanisms to generate jobs for residents and business opportunities for minority-owned companies, small businesses and microenterprises.
12) Support the development of social enterprises, worker-owned cooperatives and other alternative business models to increase employment and self-employment for jobseekers who face barriers to work, returning citizens, independent workers, and small entrepreneurs.
13) Address Baltimore’s severe basic skills gap by expanding the availability of community-based and workplace-based adult education, GED, and ESL services and by linking curricula and instruction to the occupational skills required to obtain available jobs.
14) Connect youth, young adults, returning citizens, and others who have limited work experience to work-based learning opportunities, such as apprenticeships, internships and paid work experience, and entrepreneurship training.
15) Provide case management, coaching, and supportive services that help jobseekers participate in job training and workers succeed on the job, such as: legal services to address criminal record expungement, child support arrears, immigration status, etc.; transportation, housing and child care assistance; mental health and substance abuse assistance; and other barriers.
16) Establish an Office of Racial Equity within the mayor’s office that is focused on bringing racial equity to all city programs and removing systemic barriers to fair and just distribution of resources, access, and opportunity.
As the only field office for the Open Society Foundations’ U.S. Programs, Open Society Institute-Baltimore focuses on the root causes of three intertwined problems in our city and state: drug addiction, an overreliance on incarceration and obstacles that keep youth from succeeding both inside and outside the classroom. We also support a growing corps of social entrepreneurs committed to underserved populations in Baltimore. Before we make a single grant, we analyze the root causes of a problem and examine research and innovative practices aimed at tackling the problem. Because we aim for lasting, sustainable solutions, we engage public and private partners from the start. It is only then, with a clear picture of the problem, that we begin to focus our approach and diligently craft a road map for change. Visit us on our website: http://www.osibaltimore.org/