Let’s focus on the issues | AspenTimes.com

Let’s focus on the issues

Dear Editor:In the hard-drug debate now raging around the sheriff’s race (despite the Daily News’ recent attempt to divert it with non-news like a 1-year old art project), one thing missing so far is hard data.Hard drugs (i.e., cocaine, meth), and the lack of policies to deal with them in the sheriff’s office, has had demonstrated consequences for our public safety.The facts: According to the coroner’s office, official drug-related fatalities in Pitkin County were five in 2005. An additional six occurred from 2002-2004, for 11 over past four years.With our population, that implies a death rate of 185 people per million over the last four years. (It would be much higher just for 2005, but I use the past four years to show a more fair, longer term rate.)How does this compare? Not only is this much higher than the national average (around 45 per million) our long-term drug fatality rate is higher than 29 of 32 major urban areas, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Only New Orleans, Albuquerque and Baltimore – not quite urban quality of life benchmarks – have a higher fatality rate than our mostly rural county, and those are only higher by 10 percent.Which cities does Pitkin County lag?Denver, for one (102 deaths per million) – we have TWICE the fatality rate of our closest major city.The “CSI” cities: New York and Miami have rates a half to a third of that of Pitkin County.We’re also THREE times the rate of Washington, D.C. (whose former mayor famously smoked crack-cocaine) and TWICE that of San Francisco.Check the data yourself: (http://www.samhsa.gov/news/newsreleases/050606DAWN_mortality_%202003.htm). Statistics don’t lie.We have a serious public safety issue with drunk driving and hard drugs. Our fatality rates for DUI deaths are three times the state average, and our hard-drug death rate is two times Denver, three times Miami and Washington, and would rank us 29th among 32 major cities in the U.S.Houston (three times lower fatalities, by the way), we have a problem here, and we need to debate this in the last month coming into the election.What policies can we enact to help deal with our drug and alcohol safety problems? Importantly, what can be done better to lower our drug and alcohol death rates?Are you listening Daily News and Times? Let’s talk about the issues and policies that really matter in this election. Michael Brylawski Snowmass