Sen. Cardin dis­cusses sub­stance abuse at Ce­cil County round­table

Cecil Whig - - FRONT PAGE - IS­SUE By CH­ERYL MATTIX

cmat­tix@ce­cil­whig.com

— U.S. Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) vis­ited Ce­cil County Fri­day morn­ing for a round­table dis­cus­sion about the sub­stance abuse epi­demic per­me­at­ing the county, state and coun­try.

He met with County Coun­cil Vice-Pres­i­dent Alan McCarthy, law en­force­ment of­fi­cials, health and sub­stance abuse pro­fes­sion­als, vol­un­teers, stu­dents and school of­fi­cials at the Per­ryville branch of the Ce­cil County Pub­lic Li­brary.

Cardin’s visit was part of

PER­RYVILLE

an ef­fort to seek ways to curb the num­ber of over­dose deaths as well as an out­reach by Ce­cil County to bring ad­di­tional re­sources here.

The round­table came less than a day af­ter Mary­land health of­fi­cials re­leased a new re­port con­firm­ing a statewide spike in over­dose deaths for the first six months of 2016. There were 920 deaths in Mary­land from Jan­uary through June due to over­doses, com­pared to 601 the pre­vi­ous year, a more than 50 per­cent in­crease.

Ce­cil County’s over­dose deaths went from 13 dur­ing the first six months of 2015 to 15 dur­ing the first six months of 2016, which is about a 16 per­cent in­crease.

State health of­fi­cials at­tribute the spike mostly to heroin or fen­tanyl-laced heroin and other drugs.

“Fen­tanyl con­tin­ues to be a grim fac­tor in the scourge we’ve seen grip Mary­land in re­cent years,” said Pub­lic Health Deputy Sec­re­tary Dr. Howard Haft in a state­ment re­leased late Thurs­day. “Fen­tanyl is

sig­nif­i­cantly more po­tent than heroin.”

McCarthy, who is the Repub­li­can can­di­date for Ce­cil County Ex­ec­u­tive in Novem­ber, serves as the county coun­cil li­ai­son to the county’s drug and al­co­hol coun­cil and is a staunch sup­porter of re­cov­ery.

“I’d like to see this erad­i­cated,” he said.

As he looked around the seat-filled room, Cardin said he was en­cour­aged by the “in­cred­i­ble turnout.”

“This is a pub­lic health cri­sis in Amer­ica,” he said, “and, we haven’t seen the end of it yet.”

Cardin ac­knowl­edged what most in the dis­cus­sion al­ready knew, such as that pre­scrip­tion pill mis­use has played a large part in the heroin abuse epi­demic and that mix­ing deadly fen­tanyl with other nar­cotics is in­creas­ing the death toll.

Af­ter he be­gan to seek lo­cal ideas and opin­ions, Cardin be­came im­pressed with the health depart­ment’s peer ad­vo­cacy pro­gram as well as the lo­cal cre­ativ­ity used to fund this pro­gram and other ef­forts.

“I’m re­ally im­pressed with peer re­cov­ery, but, it sounds like you re­ally need ser­vices on de­mand and you need fund­ing,” Cardin said. “The sys­tem needs to fund th­ese pro­grams for you.”

The se­na­tor be­lieves the coun­try’s health care sys­tem has ad­e­quate money, but needs to find a bet­ter way to al­lo­cate the funds, based on cost-ef­fec­tive­ness.

When Cardin asked par­tic­i­pants Fri­day if they could iden­tify some of the needs, he heard more ad­dic­tion coun­selors, more re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion beds, bet­ter in­sur­ance re­im­burse­ment and bet­ter trans­porta­tion. Cardin ac­knowl­edged that Congress hasn’t ad­e­quately in­creased re­sources to meet the needs of sub­stance abuse, adding that he would do what he could when Congress goes back into ses­sion.

“We re­ally need all of us Ce­cil County peer re­cov­ery ad­vo­cate Amy Baum­gard­ner, cen­ter,weighs in on the sub­stance abuse cri­sis dur­ing Fri­day’s opi­oid abuse aware­ness sum­mit.

at the ta­ble,” Cardin said. “We’ve stove-piped med­i­cal care in this coun­try. The sys­tem doesn’t re­im­burse the way it should.”

Cardin said Congress is try­ing to change the re­im­burse­ment model.

“But, it’s like turn­ing an air­craft car­rier around,” he said.

Ken Collins, di­rec­tor of the county’s drug and al­co­hol di­vi­sion, told Cardin that the lo­cal peer ad­vo­cates are paid through a com­bi­na­tion of fed­eral grants and county funds. The eight peer re­cov­ery ad­vo­cates are peo­ple in long term re­cov­ery who reach out to over­dose pa­tients at the hospi­tal and other places to en­cour­age them to seek help.

Rich Raftery, a health depart­ment em­ployee and an ad­vo­cate, knows the pro­gram works.

“The pa­tient has a wall up and the wall is fear,” Raftery said. “We tell them our story and the wall comes down a lit­tle.”

Raftery, whose been an ad­vo­cate for nearly four years, es­ti­mates the pro­gram has reached about about 600 peo­ple so far and about 50 per­cent of them are now in long-term re­cov­ery.

“I see the fruits of our la­bor be­cause I’m in the com­mu­nity and I see it,” he said.

The pro­gram is com­pletely vol­un­tary.

“The car­rot to our pro­gram is that we’ve been there and we can re­late,” said Amy Baum­gard­ner, health depart­ment clin­i­cal man­ager and peer ad­vo­cate co­or­di­na­tor.

Re­cov­ery Cen­ters of Amer­ica’s Brace­bridge Hall Pres­i­dent & CEO Bar­bara Kis­ten­macher said her new res­i­den­tial re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion fa­cil­ity in Ear­leville should start ac­cept­ing pa­tients in about one week. It is an ex­clu­sive fa­cil­ity that charges about $1,000 a day, which is out of the price range of many who need those ser­vices, but they will be of­fer­ing lim­ited schol­ar­ships for about 6 per­cent to 15 per­cent of their beds.

Nicole Baldino, a ju­nior at Elk­ton High School, and Cait­lyn Rund, a se­nior at Elk­ton High School par­tic­i­pated in the round­table Fri­day as rep­re­sen­ta­tives of the county’s drug free coali­tion team.

They told Cardin that they are try­ing to start a youth coali­tion at the school to ed­u­cate other stu­dents and to of­fer pos­i­tive op­tions.

“One of the prob­lems we see is that young peo­ple don’t al­ways want to lis­ten,” Rund said.

April Fos­ter, who runs Steps Re­cov­ery Re­sources, told Cardin she works closely with the Ris­ing Sun Po­lice Depart­ment who call her for help get­ting an ad­dict con­nected to ser­vices, not­ing she gets a lot of calls on week­ends.

“This is not easy,” Cardin said. “I’ve learned a lot to- day and I’ll try to get you more re­sources and try to change the sys­tem.”

County Health Of­fi­cer Stephanie Gar­rity thanked Cardin and McCarthy for their sup­port.

“We are see­ing progress, but we can’t do this alone,” Gar­rity said.

McCarthy hopes to bring Cardin back in one year to as­sess the progress.

“I think we had a good dis­cus­sion to­day,” he said.

CE­CIL WHIG PHOTO BY JA­COB OWENS

U.S. Sen. Ben Cardin ad­dresses at­ten­dees of Fri­day’s opi­oid abuse aware­ness sum­mit in Per­ryville, which was part of a lis­ten­ing tour to gain in­sight on how to help in the fight.

CE­CIL WHIG PHOTO BY JA­COB OWENS

Ce­cil County Health Of­fi­cer Stephanie Gar­rity weighs in on the sub­stance abuse is­sue in the county while Ce­cil County Sher­iff’s Of­fice Chief Deputy Gerry Wid­does lis­tens.

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