Law enforcement officials, health experts and community leaders will discuss Frederick County’s heroin and opioid epidemic and possible solutions at a town hall meeting later this week.
A panel of six people, including Sheriff Chuck Jenkins and Frederick County Health Department employee Sarah Drennan, will talk about addiction and the ways in which various agencies in the county are tackling this problem as well as answer any questions raised by the audience.
Geared toward parents and teens, the event is structured to not only provide information, but raise awareness of resources and ways to get help, said Cynthia Terl, of Gale Recovery Inc., a local nonprofit addiction treatment program.
“[The] idea is getting information in the hands of young people and of the parents to try and slow this ball that’s rolling down. The train has left the station. [Now] how do we get that train to slow down?,” she said, referring to the heroin epidemic that has claimed the lives of hundreds since 2007.
In 2014, there were 32 heroin-related overdose deaths in Frederick County alone, according to data compiled by the Frederick County Sheriff’s Office. This number has not yet been confirmed by the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.
To combat the growing use of heroin in Frederick County, local law enforcement agencies have pursued interdiction efforts and undercover operations while the county health department strives to place the anti-overdose medication naloxone in as many hands as possible.
“This crosses all lines,” Terl said, noting heroin and opioid addiction is not specific to one demographic.
Although heroin remains at the forefront of Frederick County’s drug problem, prescription drugs also play a pivotal role. Many heroin users began their drug addiction with non-prescribed drugs such as prescription painkillers before switching to heroin.
“The reality is heroin is easier to get and lot less expensive,” Terl said. “The main purpose of the town hall is to try to get to parents, as many as we can, to say, ‘Here’s the problem, we all know the problem, and here are some of the solutions.’”
Similar town halls have been held in counties across Maryland, many spearheaded by Gaudenzia Inc., one of the region’s largest drug and alcohol addiction treatment programs.
At the request of its new partner, Gale Recovery teamed up with Gaudenzia and local agencies to put on a town hall in Frederick County, according to Terl.
“We don’t want to just be known as the Band-Aid,” Terl said. “When people get in trouble, they come to us. We really want to be involved in the prevention [as well].”