Two killed in week­end crashes

Cecil Whig - - FRONT PAGE - By BRIANNA SHEA

bshea@ ce­cil­whig. com

— Two mo­torists are dead and two pas­sen­gers are in­jured af­ter sep­a­rate sin­gle- ve­hi­cle crashes on op­po­site sides of the county this week­end.

Early Satur­day morn­ing, an Elk­ton man was pro­nounced dead at the scene of a Colora crash, ac­cord­ing to Ce­cil County Sher­iff’s Of­fice of­fi­cials.

The in­ci­dent oc­curred at 1: 27 a. m. Satur­day in

CE­CIL COUNTY

state’s in­crease in over­dose deaths at 21 per­cent.

In coun­ties of sim­i­lar size to Ce­cil, it was a mixed bag. Calvert County saw an in­crease of 17 per­cent over last year in to­tal over­dose deaths, while St. Mary’s County in­creased 100 per­cent. Wi­comico County, which has a nearly iden­ti­cal pop­u­la­tion base as Ce­cil County, saw a de­crease of 10 per­cent.

On Fri­day, Ce­cil County Health Of­fi­cer Stephanie Gar­rity said the find­ings were not shock­ing.

“The in­crease does dis­tress me, but it doesn’t sur­prise me,” she said. “We’re just see­ing what is hap­pen­ing through­out the state and the coun­try.”

Per­haps most trou­bling in the new data is the dra­matic rise in the num­ber of fen­tanyl-re­lated deaths. The county saw seven such deaths in 2015 af­ter just one the year prior, and never had more than two in any recorded year. The drug is an ex­tremely strong opi­ate — roughly 100 times more po­tent than mor­phine — that is in­creas­ingly be­ing mixed with heroin, ac­cord­ing to re­ports across the re­gion. Be­cause of its po­tency, the risk of over­dos­ing with fen­tanyl-laced heroin is much higher.

“Fen­tanyl is a dou­ble-edged sword, in that it comes as both a phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal for use with pretty se­vere pain and also non-phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal when it’s typ­i­cally mixed with heroin for the sole pur­pose of abus­ing it,” said Karl Web­ner, the Ce­cil County Health Depart­ment’s over­dose pre­ven­tion co­or­di­na­tor. “The dif­fi­culty lies in get­ting in­for­ma­tion out into the com­mu­nity to those who are still en­gaged in ac­tive use. They need to be aware that the heroin they’re buy­ing on the street could eas­ily con­tain this drug, and they need to have more caution than ever be­fore when en­gag­ing in this al­ready high-risk be­hav­ior.”

Web­ner said fen­tanyl was an is­sue that neigh­bor­ing states be­gan notic­ing early last year, as pro­duc­ers be­gan cut­ting heroin with it to in­crease po­tency and lower cost, and it then crept into Mary­land. Fen­tanyl-re­lated deaths in Ce­cil County in­creased from one to two to three over the last three quar­ters of last year.

“We’re a lit­tle late to the party, but it’s def­i­nitely here,” he said. “What I’m hear­ing from peo­ple on the street is that it’s be­com­ing more preva­lent.”

Gar­rity noted that Ce­cil County law en­force­ment agen­cies and their con­tact with the U.S. Drug En­force­ment Agency via the county’s High In­ten­sity Drug Traf­fick­ing Area des­ig­na­tion al­lows lo­cal of­fi­cials to keep tabs on grow­ing re­gional trends. An up­com­ing HIDTA sum­mit will fur­ther that in­for­ma­tion shar­ing, of­fi­cials noted.

Mean­while, ben­zo­di­azepine-re­lated deaths, or those that in­volve a seda­tive, in­creased by two to five deaths com­pared to the prior year, and al­co­hol-re­lated deaths rose by three to eight — the sec­ond high­est to­tal ever recorded in the county.

Else­where in the re­port, how­ever, the county sta­tis­tics were more en­cour­ag­ing. Pre­scrip­tion opi­atere­lated deaths de­creased by two to 10 this year, while oxy­codone- re­lated deaths were cut in half to three. Methadone-re­lated deaths de­creased by one to three and co­caine-re­lated deaths fell by one to three.

Gar­rity be­lieves those num­bers are the re­sult of the state’s progress with its Pre­scrip­tion Drug Mon­i­tor­ing Program to crack down on the over­pre­scrib­ing of nar­cotics, and she hopes a new law tak­ing ef­fect Oct. 1 to re­quire any doc­tor who wants to pre­scribe a con­trolled dan­ger­ous sub­stance to use the PDMP will have a fur­ther de­ter­rent ef­fect. Mary­land is also work­ing with physi­cians to ed­u­cate them on the dan­gers of pre­scrib­ing nar­cotics.

“The pen­du­lum is mov­ing back from pre­scrib­ing with­out a lot of ed­u­ca­tion to be­ing ed­u­cated and pre­scrib­ing ac­cord­ingly,” she said.

Web­ner added that the growth of peer re­cov­ery ad­vo­cates, or peo­ple in long-term re­cov­ery who ad­vo­cate for treat­ment, and the launch of a re­source web­site, RewriteYourScript.org, have also helped county physi­cians dis­cuss sub­stance abuse with their pa­tients.

“The county took a dif­fer­ent tact with its state-funded in­for­ma­tion cam­paign as most of the oth­ers fo­cused on the evils of heroin,” Gar­rity noted. “But we re­ally wanted to fo­cus on re­cov­ery and the fact that help is out there, and peo­ple are suc­cess­ful in their re­cov­ery.”

Health depart­ment of­fi­cials pointed out that while the an­nual DHMH re­port tracks fa­tal over­doses, it doesn’t re­port pos­i­tive growth in­di­ca­tors. Web­ner noted there are 64 known lives saved by the 973 trained mem­bers of the pub­lic and law en­force­ment offi- cers over the past two years as the re­sult of the health depart­ment’s nalox­one program, which has dis­sem­i­nated and trained on the use of the over­dose-re­vers­ing drug. A Viv­it­rol program at the Ce­cil County De­ten­tion Cen­ter has also served sev­eral dozen in­mates who are look­ing to con­tinue in so­bri­ety af­ter re­lease.

“I spoke to a mother whose son en­rolled in the Viv­it­rol program af­ter he got into some trou­ble,” Web­ner said. “She called me the other day to tell me he had re­ceived his fourth shot and was do­ing bet­ter than he’s ever done.”

Ken Collins, di­rec­tor of the Ce­cil County Health Depart­ment’s Al­co­hol and Drug Re­cov­ery Cen­ter, also re­ported that Ce­cil County now boasts 10 re­cov­ery homes with more than 75 to­tal beds to sup­port those en­ter­ing re­cov­ery. A grow­ing num­ber of those in re­cov­ery are also shed­ding their anonymity in or­der ad­vo­cate for re­cov­ery re­sources and bat­tle stigma, led by the non­profit Voices of Hope for Ce­cil County.

Collins said that the health depart­ment is al­ways dis­cussing new ideas to pi­lot that may help make an im­pact on sub­stance abuse rates. One such idea is to get more in­volved with de­ten­tion cen­ter in­mates prior to their re­lease in or­der to bet­ter en­sure they are con­nected to re­sources.

“We’ve also had suc­cess with peers in hos­pi­tals, but what about peers tag­ging along with law en­force­ment?” he said, not­ing a pi­lot program for such a part­ner­ship is be­ing dis­cussed. “We want to get in­volved with peo­ple be­fore an over­dose.”

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