APG to join fight against opioid epidemic
EDGEWOOD — Aberdeen Proving Ground (APG) is bringing its world-class research and development capabilities to the fight against the opioid epidemic, officials announced at the National Opioid Crisis Community Summit on Thursday.
This partnership between the state of Maryland and APG represents another piece in the ongoing effort to fight the opioid epidemic. During his remarks, Lt. Gov. Boyd Rutherford reflected on the number of initiatives the state has undertaken, including declaring a state of emergency, creating heroin coordinators to track the drug’s trade, and starting “Before It’s Too Late,” an online awareness campaign.
Now, as the opioid epidemic continues its spread across the state and country, Rutherford called for an “allhands-on-deck approach” to foster collaboration.
”Aberdeen has a lot of expertise when it comes to chemical investigation and research,” Rutherford said. “I can’t forecast exactly what we’re going to receive out of this, but we’re going to improve the situation.”
Harford County Executive Barry Glassman praised the move as another strong partnership in the fight against the epidemic. Calling APG “the world’s center for chemical research,” Glassman said that “adding that extra layer of technology as a way to solve this epidemic is very important.”
Locally, APG is perhaps best known for its munitions testing in Aberdeen, but the Edgewood Chemical Biological Center, on the base’s southern end, is America’s principal resource for chemical and biological research and development.
”Aberdeen Proving Ground is renowned for amazing breakthroughs, innovations, and revolutionary finds,” Glassman said. “For decades, we have looked to this installation to protect our soldiers and our borders. Now we turn to you for your help to protect our sons, our daughters, our friends and neighbors from this epidemic.”
Maj. Gen. Randy Taylor, senior mission commander of APG, said the “lightbulb kind of came on” came after community leaders asked the Army to get involved, pointing to APG’s team of scientists and researchers.
”We’ve got the world’s best chemical and medical experts here,” Taylor said. “This capability doesn’t exist anywhere else in our country or in the world.”
The general explained that every chemical known to man that can cause harm is studied at APG, where countermeasures are then developed.
” We’re going to share some of our lessons, some of our expertise, and solicit feedback from the community,” he said.
Taylor said that the Army has treated over 66,000 service members for opioid addiction. Over the last five years, the Army has reduced over-prescription of painkillers by 45 percent.
As one example of APG’s work on this issue so far, officials pointed to a set of hightech mannequin, known as a manikin, used to simulate a range of medical issues, including amputations and seizures. One manikin is used to simulate opioid overdoses and how to respond.
Following the announcement, officials split into breakout groups for further seminars dealing with more specifics.
”We started this morning talking about treatment,” Taylor said. “What we’re going to get into deeply as the day progresses is detection, especially now that the chemicals we’re talking about — fentanyl and opioids in general — can be weaponized to harm mass populations.”
As officials talked about the epidemic, they also reminded the audience that the epidemic impacts all demographics and doesn’t discriminate.
Jennifer Tippett, a recovery advocate, spoke at the summit, sharing her personal story losing her husband Justin.
Tippett remembered her husband as a “loving father, doting husband, caring son and brother, and a loyal friend.” She remembered him as a coach of baseball and wrestling, an extreme couponer, a constant source of comic relief, and a “lost car key finder.”
“He was my best friend, and one of the best people I will ever know,” she said. “He was also an addict, and there it is — that dirty little word.”
Tippett called for an end to the stigma around the word “addict.”
“That word is so powerful that it can come to define a person despite all they bring into the world,” she said.
Cecil County officials remarked on the timing of the summit, which came four days after a weekend that saw 25 overdoses and five fatalities in 72 hours.
”This is a real crisis that is claiming the lives of our young people,” said Cecil County Executive Alan McCarthy, who attended the summit along with members of his administration.
Explaining that he was looking for more approaches to fight the epidemic, McCarthy said, “I’m looking for the silver bullet. There’s dry bones here.”
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County Executive Alan McCarthy looks on as speakers talk about the opioid epidemic.
U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Randy Taylor talks about Aberdeen Proving Ground’s efforts to join in the fight against the opioid epidemic.
Director of Emergency Services Richard Brooks and County Executive Alan McCarthy talk about the struggles Cecil County has faced with the opioid epidemic, with five suffering overdose deaths last weekend.
As Aberdeen Proving Ground joins the fight against the opioid epidemic, Lt. Gov. Boyd Rutherford emphasizes the need for an “all-handson-deck approach.”