Four million vs. 24 million: How many addicts are there in the U.S.?

Credit writer Dan Baum points for timing. But math? Maybe not.

Baum authored a recent Harpers magazine article suggesting that legalizing drugs might be the answer to the current fix we are in.

Harpers' controversial piece on legalizing drugs- all drugs.
Harpers’ controversial piece on legalizing drugs- all drugs.

His Sunday  interview on NPR about the legalization idea out there just hours before an estimated 1800 gather in Atlanta for the National Rx Drug Abuse & Heroin Summit. Among the attendees: President Obama, as well as the head of the DEA, the Surgeon General, the head of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, and various and sundry congresspeople.

Monday morning, a Daily Beast columnist weighed in on ending the war on drugs, citing Baum’s article and pointing out that Obama’s talk will take place in a city ravaged by drugs.

Michael Botticelli, director of the White House Office on Drug Control Policy, is among high-level fed officials at Summit.
Michael Botticelli, director of the White House Office on Drug Control Policy, is among high-level fed officials at Summit.

But while the timing is good, a crucial piece of math used in Baum’s interview is probably not only off base but out of the ballpark entirely.

He suggested about 4 million Americans have a drug dependency problem, citing Peter Reuter of the University of Maryland, who Baum said puts the number of people addicted to hard drugs at fewer than 4 million.

What is being defined as a “hard” drug isn’t entirely clear.

But the feds, based on years of national surveys and emergency room data, estimate more than 24 million people are in need of treatment for addiction.

Even if you’re skeptical of figures provided by the federal government’s drug-fighting agencies, consider this: There are an estimated 600,000 or so heroin addicts in the U.S.  Given its lethal dangers, heroin has all the headlines right now, but it is far from the most common drug of abuse.

Think oxycodone, benzodiazepines, Percocet; throw in methamphetamine, and cocaine. For starters.

If even those five drugs generated the same level of addiction as heroin, once you add in the heroin figures you start bumping up against four million number.

Palm Beach Post Reporters Christine Stapleton and Pat Beall  are covering the four-day Summit live from Atlanta.  The two are members of a Post team of reporters investigating scams in Palm Beach County’s $1 billion drug treatment industry.

The 8-month long investigation by the Palm Beach Post uncovered patient brokering, insurance fraud and kickbacks.

VIDEO: See how the new West Palm Beach spring training complex is taking shape

Want to take a quick ride with construction crews building the Ballpark of the Palm Beaches, where the Washington Nationals and Houston Astros will play starting in January?

Click this short video to see what it looked like as of a week ago.

 

 

Amid soaring heroin use, Gov. Rick Scott greenlights Florida’s first needle exchange program

Hypodermic needles   found in the trash at a cottage apartment by Jean Thomas, 83, in West Palm Beach's Prospect Park neighborhood. (Thomas Cordy / The Palm Beach Post)
Hypodermic needles found in the trash at a cottage apartment by Jean Thomas, 83, in West Palm Beach’s Prospect Park neighborhood. (Thomas Cordy / The Palm Beach Post)

It’s taken a while- a few years, actually- but today Gov. Rick Scott signed off on a pilot program in Miami-Dade County, run by the University of Miami, which establishes a needle exchange for addicts.

Once politically unthinkable, the state’s soaring rates of IV drug use- and deaths- have slowly made the idea of providing clean needles to addicts acceptable.

Credit the track record of needle exchanges in reducing rates of HIV/AIDS and Hepatitis C. That helps explain why the Florida Medical Association threw its considerable weight behind the pilot program, and why a Republican-led Congress has lifted the ban on using federal money for such exchanges.

Florida’s program is, however, just a pilot. And the University of Miami won’t be able to use state or local tax dollars to get it up and running and keep it going.

But in a written statement, Bill Piper, Senior Director of National Affairs for the Drug Policy Alliance, expressed optimism: “Hopefully this pilot syringe program is just the beginning of major changes in Florida,” he wrote.

Some neighborhoods locally might welcome that: In Prospect Park, 83-year-old Jean Thomas discovered a cache of needles in her trash last year.

 

Blackout Black Friday: Trio of protesters rallies outside Gardens Mall

Scheril Murray Powel, (from left), a Florida International University law school student, Ayanna Asante and Jamilah Gavin hold signs while demonstrating in front of the Gardens Mall on Friday in Palm Beach Gardens. (Bill Ingram / The Palm Beach Post)
Scheril Murray Powell, (from left), a Florida International University law school student, Ayanna Asante and Jamilah Gavin hold signs while demonstrating in front of the Gardens Mall on Friday in Palm Beach Gardens. (Bill Ingram / The Palm Beach Post)

Outside The Gardens Mall on Friday in Palm Beach Gardens, a trio of protesters were just a small segment of protests both locally and nationally calling for a boycott of Black Friday.

Promoted over social media as #BlackoutBlackFriday, the movement calls for both blacks and those against racial inequality to stay away from large retailers both on the biggest shopping day of the year and other days throughout the year.

They included Florida International University law student Scheril Murray Powell, who says she began boycotting Black Friday in 2012 and continued after the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, as a form of economic activism against police shootings involving mostly black young men.

That sense of activism, Powell said, was heightened with last month’s shooting death of 31-year-old Corey Jones, a stranded black motorist gunned down by now-fired Palm Beach Gardens Police officer Norman Raja.

“Even if I was the only one out here, I’d still be here,” Powell said. “I want to be a catalyst for change, and this is how I’m doing it.”

Brad Goldstein, a spokesman from a firm The Gardens Mall hired specifically to address protests in the wake of Jones death, said he was unaware of any other protests aside from the one where Powell stood. He said he didn’t think National Blackout founder and Black Lawyers for Justice president, Dr. Malik Zulu Shabazz, was at the mall.

“Our sympathies go out to the Jones family,” Goldstein said, adding: “The mall had nothing to do with the tragedy.”

At one point during Friday’s demonstration, a white man in a gray BMW slowed down at the intersection, rolled down his window and said, “Don’t forget Corey.”

Powell, who two weeks ago organized a panel discussion and candlelight vigil in honor of Jones in Broward County, told the man that Jones was the reason why they were there.

Ayanna Asante, a local co-chair of the National Blackout, one of the organizations spearheading the calls for the boycott, said members of the group in Chicago, Detroit, Minneapolis and other places of recent shootings involving white police officers have turned out in droves.

Asante and her daughter joined Powell on PGA Boulevard, along with a handful of others who came and went, with plans to conduct other protests elsewhere.

Their hope, organizers say, is to force business leaders and politicians to address racial injustice by forcing them to recognize the impact of blacks as consumers.

According to an ongoing Nielsen study of African American consumerism, whose latest findings were released in September, blacks were expected to spend about $1 trillion nationally this year.

Corey Jones family: Records show officer the aggressor

Corey Jones, 31, was shot and killed by a Palm Beach Gardens police officer, Oct. 18, 2015. Photo courtesy of WPTV.
Corey Jones, 31, was shot and killed by a Palm Beach Gardens police officer, Oct. 18, 2015. Photo courtesy of WPTV.

Records of Corey Jones’ last calls prove a Palm Beach Gardens police officer was “likely the aggressor” in an encounter where the officer shot and killed him last week, his family’s attorneys said Tuesday.

The records, obtained exclusively by The Palm Beach Post Monday, show Jones had dialed AT&T’s roadside assistance line six times trying to get a tow truck to assist him with his broken-down vehicle in the early hours of Oct. 18.

The last call, at 3:10 a.m., was 53 minutes, which indicates the line was still open when Palm Beach Gardens officer Nouman Raja said he was forced to shoot Jones because Jones charged at him with a gun.

Palm Beach Gardens police officer Nouman Raja shot and killed Corey Jones, 31, on an Interstate 95 off ramp at PGA Boulevard in Palm Beach Gardens on Oct. 18, 2015.
Palm Beach Gardens police officer Nouman Raja shot and killed Corey Jones, 31, on an Interstate 95 off ramp at PGA Boulevard in Palm Beach Gardens on Oct. 18, 2015.

Jones family attorney Skinner Louis says the records belie Raja’s account, and that Jones was laid-back, calm, and refused an offer from his brother, C.J., to pick him up from the southbound exit ramp of Interstate 95 at PGA Boulevard just before he was killed.

» RELATED: Complete coverage of the Corey Jones shooting

“He wasn’t angry, he wasn’t agitated. He just thought maybe he was calling the wrong number,” Louis said of Jones’ long wait to speak to someone from roadside assistance. “So his brother sent him another number to call.”

Louis says he and Jones’ family members believe that Jones, who was left-handed, likely had his phone to his ear when Raja parked an unmarked police van perpendicular to his car and got out.

Jones had purchased a gun three days earlier and had a license to carry it, Louis said, but he said Jones never fired it.

“At the time Raja parked… (Corey) probably put his phone down and reached for the gun with his left hand,” Louis said.

Louis was a high school friend of Jones’ and is now part of the family’s legal team, which includes famed civil rights attorney Benjamin Crump. Louis said on Tuesday that the attorneys’ focus on Tuesday was to get answers from AT&T.

AT&T officials on Monday confirmed to The Post that they are cooperating with law enforcement on the case but declined to comment further.

The family attorneys also expected Tuesday to speak with Palm Beach County State Attorney Dave Aronberg. They initially met with him last week, and prosecutors provided the family with details of the shooting. Based on that conversation, they believe Raja wasn’t using his department-issued weapon when he shot Jones.

Louis says the most important parts of the investigation at this point remains the sequence of shots Raja fired and where he was standing when he fired them.

Jones, he said, was struck by three bullets – including one that shattered his left elbow and fractured his arm.

“That would have separated him from his gun if he had it in his hand,” Louis said.

Prosecutors told the family last week that the gun was found in the grass between Jones’ body and his car, an 80- to 100-foot distance.

Sculpture artist chosen for public art at new West Palm Beach baseball complex

Blessing Hancock, a sculpture artist based in Tucson, Ariz., has been selected to design and install the public art that will be part of the new spring training baseball stadium in West Palm Beach.

Hancock, owner of Skyrim Studio, will have a budget of $800,000 for three areas of the complex, which will be shared by the Houston Astros and Washington Nationals starting in January 2017.

Blessing Hancock, an Arizona-based sculpture artist, proposed these shadow panels and pitch banners at the new West Palm Beach spring training stadium.
Blessing Hancock, an Arizona-based sculpture artist, proposed these shadow panels and pitch banners at the new West Palm Beach spring training stadium.

A selection committee made up of team representatives and Palm Beach County staff chose Hancock late last month from 43 national artists.

Hancock’s proposal included stainless steel shade and shadow panels at the main entrance. From a distance, the shadow screens will resemble a cluster of palm fronds. As visitors get closer, they will see a grid pattern of tiny baseball players in motion, focusing on sequences of hitting, throwing and catching.

The panels will create artistic shadows reflected onto the concourse.

“These sequential chains of motion are captured in silhouette and reflected onto the surrounding surfaces and visitors to the artwork,’’ Hancock wrote in her presentation.

ARTTHer proposal also calls for colorful panels above the stadium’s main concourse with photographs depicting the grips of different pitches such as a fastball and knuckleball. And on the railings of bridges that will connect the stadium to the practice fields, Hancock is proposing panels depicting baseball trivia and memorabilia.

Blessing Hancock (photo courtesy University of Texas at San Antonio)
Blessing Hancock (photo courtesy University of Texas at San Antonio)

The Astros and Nationals will work with Hancock on the final designs, which might not be the same designs that she included in her proposal.

Hancock will start designing the project on Aug. 15. The installation is scheduled for completion in the fall of 2016.

The $135 million stadium, which is being financed in part by $113 million in revenue from a tax on hotels and motels, will be built on 160 acres south of 45th Street between Military Trail and Haverhill Road.

The teams hope to break ground by mid-October.