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Addiction and the Urban Child Ninth Annual Urban Child Symposium

According to the 2015 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, in 2015, approximately 2.2 million adolescents aged 12 to 17 (8.8%) and 7.8 million young adults aged 18 to 25 (22.3%) were current users of illicit drugs. While not all users of illicit drugs become addicts, many will, especially those who begin using drugs at a young age. Recognizing the need to increase awareness about this growing problem, the University of Baltimore School of Law Sayra and Neil Meyerhof Center for Families, Children and the Courts' ninth annual Urban Child Symposium focuses on "Addiction and the Urban Child." The symposium will be held April 6, 2017, from 8:30 a.m. until 3:30 p.m. in the Angelos Law Center Moot Courtroom.

As the number of overdose deaths continues to rise, states are focused increasingly on developing effective ways to address this epidemic. "Amid mounting overdose deaths, [Maryland] Gov. Larry Hogan pledged ... to spend an extra $10 million a year to battle Maryland's problem with heroin and prescription pill abuse. The ... governor ... declared a state of emergency because of the epidemic, which officials believe led to some 2,000 overdose deaths last year."

The impact of substance use disorders on children is of particular concern. Adolescents are at a significantly higher risk of developing a substance use disorder than are adults,[3] and the impact of drug use on the developing brain can have significant, long-term consequences. Approximately 60% of high school students and 32% of middle school students say that "students keep, use, or sell drugs on school grounds."[4] "At least 60% of high school students "have said they attend a drug-infected school."[5]

Despite a significant increase in the number of addicts, there is not a concomitant rise in the availability of treatment slots or rehabilitation centers. "In 2015, an estimated 21.7 million people aged 12 or older needed substance use treatment (i.e., treatment for problems related to the use of alcohol or illicit drugs) ... , [yet only] 10.8 percent of [those] (2.3 million people) who needed substance use treatment received treatment at a specialty facility in the past year."[6] The goal of this year's Urban Child Symposium is to bring together experts at the front lines of this critical issue to examine the science of addiction, as well as the connections between substance use disorders and the legal, social and economic problems faced by urban families. The symposium also explores ways in which our communities can help address the problems faced by families and children whose lives are affected by substance use disorders and dependence.

Bridget Brennan, the Special Narcotics Prosecutor in New York City, is the morning's keynote speaker. Her office processes roughly 3,000 arrests each year. "The Office of the Special Narcotics Prosecutor for the City of New York is dedicated to protecting neighborhoods by enforcing drug laws and strengthening communities through drug abuse prevention and rehabilitation for addicted offenders."[7] The office has been a leader in offering addicted offenders alternatives to incarceration through drug treatment programs.[8] Ms. Brennan's strong focus on treatment and rehabilitation is a model best practice for other cities to follow in light of the growing number of drug addicts.

The Urban Child Symposium's first panel will focus on "The Science of Addiction." Panelists will examine the most recent neuroscience research regarding the impact of drugs and alcohol on the brain. They will discuss the disease model of addiction and its characterization as a chronic relapsing disorder. The panel also will address the connections between substance dependence and legal, social, and economic problems. The morning's panel includes: Dr. Hoover Adger, Jr., Professor of Pediatrics at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine; Mike Gimbel, President of Mike Gimbel Associates, LLC; the Honorable Ronald Silkworth, Chief Judge, Anne Arundel County Circuit Court; and Ivette Torres, Associate Director, Office of Consumer Affairs, Center for Substance Abuse Treatment.

Peter Bruun will serve as the afternoon's keynote speaker. Mr. Bruun is the founder of the "New Day Campaign," an organization that uses art to challenge the stigma and discrimination associated with mental illness and substance use to make the world a more healing place. Mr. Bruun tragically lost his eldest daughter to a heroin overdose in 2014. Since then, he has drawn from his own personal experience to help raise awareness for those who struggle with mental illness and substance use.

The afternoon panel will focus on "The Community's Response to Addiction." Panelists will identify the unique challenges faced by families struggling with substance use and will propose ways in which the legal, health, education, and civic communities can help address the problems faced by families and children who suffer from substance dependence. The afternoon panel includes: Olivia Farrow, Deputy Commissioner of the Baltimore City Health Department; Dr. Marc Fishman, Medical Director of Maryland Treatment Centers and Assistant Professor in the Johns Hopkins University Department of Psychiatry; V. Glenn Fueston, Jr., Executive Director of the Governor's Office of Crime Control and Prevention; and Vanita Taylor, Division Chief of the Children in Need of Assistance (CINA) Division of the Baltimore City Office of the Public Defender.

We hope to see you there!

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