October 21, 2017
Politics & Opinion
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A Recap Of National Recovery Month

Nancy Schrum - Anne Arundel County Constituent Services
Nancy Schrum - Anne Arundel County Constituent Services's picture
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October 4, 2017

As we celebrate the close of National Recovery Month, we need remind citizens of the breadth of the challenge we face when it comes to heroin and opioid addiction in Anne Arundel as well as our response.

Three years ago, our county was experiencing one fatality a week and one overdose a day. As a result of those figures, which we regarded at the time as a crisis, one of our administration’s first actions was to declare a public health emergency related to the heroin and opioid epidemic.

We formed the Anne Arundel County Heroin Action Taskforce, which reviewed strategies and best practices from around the country. The taskforce recommended 35 specific actions that fall into three general categories: law enforcement, treatment and education. We have implemented every one of those recommendations and added to them along the way through new initiatives supported by the state-mandated Opioid Intervention Team.

Actions in the area of enforcement include doubling the budget for the police department’s Drug Diversion Squad. We are also funding a dedicated heroin prosecutor in the State’s Attorney’s Office. We are prioritizing heroin warrants and, announced just this month, filing legal action against drug manufacturers, distributors and pill-mill doctors who prescribe the very drugs that often begin the cycle of addiction.

This planned litigation is important. We believe our jurisdiction is uniquely positioned for successful legal action. Our community, families and friends have been harmed and we need to get them help. Additionally, health care providers, law enforcement and other county departments are shouldering a burden for which they do not have adequate resources to bear. Those who have had a hand in this epidemic must be held accountable.

We are also working hard to expand and improve treatment options by investing $800,000 to open a new substance abuse treatment center. We have also increased community grants for those who provide help for substance use. In addition, we doubled the budget for crucial tools in the heroin fight, such as Narcan. We are offering Vivitrol treatments in our detention facilities. And in April, we implemented a Safe Stations program that has helped connect more than 150 people to treatment in just four months.

And finally, our education initiative Not My Child forums are being held across the county. These candid presentations engage the audience in an open and honest conversation on the destruction of lives and families through a loved one’s use of illegal and legally prescribed drugs. If you or a loved one are interested, join us October 24 at Severna Park Middle School at 7:00pm or November 8 at Chesapeake Bay Middle School at 7:00pm.

The panelists share how substance abuse changes the brain health of the people we love, how to avoid the pathways to addiction, who to call for help and the role of law enforcement. It’s extremely important that we all acknowledge and accept that our county is facing an opioid crisis of historic proportions. Death will continue until everyone takes personal responsibility to understand addiction. The county’s goal is to have no new users.

The county has undertaken partnerships with many groups, such as the faith community and nonprofits. Working together, we can make certain all citizens, our youth and adults, understand the pathways to addiction.

We have learned many lessons since declaring the public health emergency in January 2015. It is time to acknowledge that for many users, mental health and substance abuse are linked. Early and proper diagnose of mental health and behavioral disorders are a path to prevention. It’s time for citizens from every corner of our county to wake up; this health issue could be on your doorstep. Denial is deadly.

For more information on the dangers of addiction, visit www.denialisdeadly.org and to learn more about Not My Child visit www.aacounty.org/heroin.


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