February 13, 2013

Letters to the editor: Drug warnings aimed at saving lives

I am writing to applaud Portland Public Health in their decision to release posters addressing the particularly potent heroin recently affecting Greater Portland ("Posters warn addicts about potent Portland heroin," Feb. 5).

The city’s posters alert users to heroin’s dangers and suggest ways to lessen the chances of a fatal overdose. The warnings “target a group of people for whom the standard anti-drug programs clearly failed,” a reader says.

As controversial as it may seem to publicly encourage precautions when using illegal substances, in no way do I interpret the intent of these posters to encourage the use of or experimentation with heroin.

Recognizing that the posters are not targeting nonuser issues, I find these actions to be responsible and progressive, as they target a group of people for whom the standard anti-drug programs clearly failed. Regardless of the merits or faults of prohibition, it is undeniable that people are going to use drugs, and while the law is established to punish them, public health programs should be established to help them.

With already 13 overdoses since the beginning of December, I find it appropriate to address this problem by reaching out to consumers in a nonjudgmental, humanistic way. Our society is quick to shun, shame and judge individuals battling addiction rather than offering the supportive communities that may encourage wellness.

While I do not advocate for the legalization of heroin, I feel that it is important to approach these recent overdoses strictly with the intention to reduce harm. This is an issue about potentially saving the lives of our friends, neighbors and fellow citizens.

I find it unfortunate that this public health issue has been twisted into a talking point for those less compassionate or less informed about addiction. Ignoring a problem does not make it go away.

Obviously, there is literally no safe way to use heroin. However, the recent steps made with these posters may be steps in the right direction, for they provide possibly life-saving education to both users and friends of users.

Lauren LaBonte


Guns in school would cause problems, not solve them

I am writing in response to the article "Maine bill would allow teachers to carry guns," published in the Portland Press Herald on Jan. 23.

While Sen. David Burns' concern for the safety of children and staff in schools is commendable, his proposed bill is not an appropriate solution.

As an occupational therapy student, I have spent time in schools observing therapists and have become familiar with the school environment. It is no place for guns.

Even with safety training and the best intentions, people can still make mistakes. In hectic classroom settings, weapons could be misplaced and accessed by children with tragic results.

Additionally, Sen. Burns' claim that schools are "soft targets" because teachers do not carry weapons is an unfounded generalization. While the massacre that took place at Sandy Hook Elementary School in December was appalling, such events are a rarity.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the vast majority of children will never experience lethal violence on school grounds, with less than 1 percent of homicides among school-age children occurring at school.

Instead of arming school staff, why not focus on preventing dangerous situations in the first place? Increasing security (e.g., locked doors, proper visitor regulations, functioning intercom systems) is a safer and simpler solution and a better investment than providing weapons for teachers.

Jessica Reed

South Portland

Abortion-rights supporters do injustice to the unborn

Regarding Rachael Myers Healy's editorial supporting abortion rights ("Another View: Abortion restrictions put decision making in wrong hands," Feb. 2):

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