BALTIMORE – U.S. Senator Ben Cardin (D-Md.), a member of the Senate Finance Health Care Subcommittee, this week toured and met with program leaders and participants at two Maryland organizations dedicated to improving the lives of homeless veterans and those with substance use disorders. Senator Cardin on Monday visited the Helping Up Mission, a faith-based center to help homeless men fight addiction and get their lives back on track, and Tuesday surveyed The Baltimore Station, an innovative therapeutic residential treatment program supporting veterans and others who are transitioning through the cycle of poverty, substance use, and homelessness to self-sufficiency.
“Integrated treatment approaches like these for homeless veterans and addicts need to be expanded and replicated as soon as possible if we are to confront Maryland’s opioid epidemic,” said Senator Cardin. “There is no one-size-fits-all approach to overcoming addiction, but it seems that those able to achieve the most transformative and lasting changes are those that combine physical and mental health services with education and job training, and build partnerships with diverse partners throughout the community to help all aspects where an individual faces challenges in life.”
Senator Cardin’s tour of the Helping Up Mission was led by executive director Robert Gehman and senior director Jim Longenecker and included conversations with many residents and program participants. “The hope and confidence that re-enters these men’s lives as soon as they make the decision to seriously work to turn them around is incredibly impressive,” said Senator Cardin. “I met people who used to run from personal responsibility who now run marathons, and several who themselves have found ways to win their battles with addiction and now take their time to mentor others.”
“The epidemic of opioid misuse and abuse is a public health crisis that too often goes hand-in-hand with homelessness. We need to use all tools at our disposal to help people break the cycle,” said Senator Cardin. “Centers like the Helping Up Mission play an important role in a comprehensive approach to facing these challenges and giving these men a second chance at life and contributing to their families and their communities.”
At The Baltimore Station, Senator Cardin discussed operational challenges and opportunities with executive director John Friedel and program and facilities managers, before delivering remarks to homeless veterans served by the organization’s programs. “No one who fought for our nation in uniform should ever have to fight for a roof over their head or proper mental health care,” said Senator Cardin. “We need to fully support you on the home front just as tirelessly as you served our country.”
“The Baltimore Station is on the front lines, helping our veterans battle the interwoven challenges of addiction, mental health problems and homelessness,” said Senator Cardin. “The federal government has an obligation to support veterans’ health and well-being, and to ensure our partners have adequate tools and resources to support veterans in need.”
According to the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), in 2015 there were nearly 8,400 homeless Marylanders in the state; an increase of 6.8%. While Maryland homelessness increased overall, homelessness among veterans in the state fell more than 9% between 2014 and 2015.