Thurmont's elected officials unanimously agreed on Tuesday to tackle opioid addiction with an advisory commission dedicated to community outreach and education.
Commissioner Martin Burns proposed creating a town advisory commission focused on opioids, addiction and recovery in Thurmont to the Board of Commissioners at a town meeting as local support for such action continues to grow.
The commissioners and Mayor John Kinnaird all agreed to start the commission as more young people in Thurmont and elsewhere in Frederick County continue to overdose on opioids, some of them fatally.
"It's getting to the point that it's an epidemic, and we need to do something," Commissioner Wayne Hooper said.
Ed and Karen Schildt, who live in Thurmont and lost their son Chris to an opioid overdose in June 2016, attended the town meeting in support of the proposal.
The Schildts hosted a stage production of "An Introduction to the Enemy" — which focuses on how addiction affects a person — at Catoctin High School on April 12. They also held a community discussion at the Guardian Hose Company's hall on May 11 to brainstorm community solutions to the opioid epidemic.
At that gathering, Burns committed to bring the idea of an advisory commission to the town board.
Burns said his perception of drug users used to be "lock 'em up, throw the key away,” but that started to change as a result of the Schildts' presentation at Catoctin High School and its message of breaking the cycle of addiction.
A handful of bereavement and outreach groups have popped up in Thurmont as the epidemic has grown and reached every level of society.
"We have multiple people that have been impacted that want to make a difference," Burns said.
The addiction commission will give the people a location to bring in experts, speak to kids and add credibility to their recommendations and plans, Burns said. This will help the town board make better decisions about how it could assist, he said.
Burns volunteered in the coming weeks to find a day for the new group to meet in the town's offices and begin looking for people who may be interested in serving on the commission.
"If you approach it as an army of many, we can move mountains," Commissioner Wes Hamrick said.
Opioids shake a community
Talking about mental health and how it is connected to addiction is one of those mountains.
Rachel Hubbard, a Thurmont resident who lost her son Jesse, 19, to suicide last year, is hosting a memorial walk and community event on June 17 at the Guardian Hose Company's fairgrounds.
Jesse grew up in Thurmont and graduated from Catoctin High School in 2015.
He was using prescription pills and showing signs of depression as a freshman at Frederick Community College before he died of an overdose in April 2016, Hubbard said.
The community event will focus on mental health and opioids, which can be heavy topics for kids and adults. Hubbard is aiming to create a positive environment with contests and live speakers so kids, teens and families can learn more about mental health and addiction together.
The Frederick County Health Department will be at the event as well as a handful of speakers, including Emmitsburg Mayor Donald Briggs and Emmitsburg filmmaker Conrad Weaver.
Weaver’s latest project, "Heroin's Grip," documents the spread of heroin and other opioids in Frederick County.
The event will include a 5K walk starting at 11 a.m. and a cornhole tournament at 1 p.m.
People can register online at www.givebutter.com/umttr/jessehubbard for discounted prices on registration for the walk and cornhole tournament.