Fight­ing the heroin epi­demic in Dorch­ester

Dorchester Star - - Regional - By VIC­TO­RIA WIN­GATE vwingate@ches­pub.com Staff writer Sarah Drury con­trib­uted to this re­port.

CAM­BRIDGE — Cam­bridge Po­lice Chief Daniel Dvo­rak called a press con­fer­ence on Tues­day, Aug. 16, to bring at­ten­tion to the grow­ing heroin prob­lem af­fect­ing the com­mu­nity.

Six heroin over­doses, one of which was fa­tal, in the frame of a week prompted Dvo­rak and his de­part­ment to call ex­tra at­ten­tion to the is­sue. Three of the over­doses hap­pened within a 30-minute pe­riod.

“It leads me to worry we have some heroin that’s be­ing mixed with some es­pe­cially bad stuff,” Dvo­rak said. “We need to get in front of this ad­dic­tion prob­lem. The ad­dic­tion is what is driv­ing the crime in Cam­bridge. If you have a fam­ily mem­ber or a friend who is ad­dicted, or if you are ad­dicted to heroin, please try to get some treat­ment.”

Dorch­ester County Ad­dic­tions Di­rec­tor and the Lo­cal Ad­dic­tion Au­thor­ity Don­ald Hall also spoke to the prob­lem and out­lined many of the treat­ment op­tions avail­able to the res­i­dents of Cam­bridge and Dorch­ester County.

“I think its im­por­tant to re­al­ize that in 2015, 1,259 peo­ple died in this state of an over­dose. I don’t think that’s some­thing we can ig­nore,” Hall said. “What we have to do is con­nect with those that are out there suf­fer­ing and get them to treat­ment.”

Hall men­tioned the ad­di­tion of two peer re­cov­ery spe­cial­ists to the Dri-Dock Re­cover y and Well­ness Cen­ter and the avail­abil­ity of ser­vices at Dorch­ester Ad­dic­tions Pro­gram, through the Health De­part­ment.

In or­der to pro­vide more as­sis­tance, Hall said he and his team are work­ing to im­ple­ment a more grass-roots ap­proach.

“We can’t solve the prob­lem if we’re just in a build­ing, be­hind a desk,” Hall said. “We have to go out in the com­mu­nity to try to touch peo­ple where they are, where they are suf­fer­ing, quite frankly. We’re shift­ing what we do.”

Dorch­ester County State’s At­tor­ney Wil­liam Jones stressed the dan­gers of heroin that has been mixed with the ad­di­tional opi­oid fen­tanyl, a likely cul­prit for the string of re­cent over­doses.

“A lot of times peo­ple are buy­ing heroin and us­ing it and they don’t even know that fen­tanyl has been mixed in,” Jones said. “Some­times the deal­ers don’t even re­al­ize they’re sell­ing some­thing that has fen­tanyl mixed into it.”

Jones said in­tel­li­gence sug­gests that fen­tanyl is of­ten mixed into heroin in Mex­ico, be­fore it even crosses the border into the United States, which makes it par­tic­u­larly hard to track and dif­fi­cult for lo­cal law en­force­ment to con­trol.

“It’s so dan­ger­ous that we have to worry about law en­force­ment of­fi­cers and their seizures of fen­tanyl be­cause it is trans­der­mal,” Jones said. “It can go through the skin. Of­fi­cers are at great risk of be­ing in­jured and they can ac­tu­ally die from lethal amounts of fen­tanyl that can en­ter their blood­stream through dig­i­tal con­tact.”

Pre­scrip­tion painkillers are of­ten at the root of a heroin ad­dic­tion, Jones noted, and he urged peo­ple to dis­pose of any un­used med­i­ca­tions in a proper man­ner. An anony­mous, no-ques­tion­sasked, 24-hour drop­box is avail­able at the Pub­lic Safety Build­ing, 8 Wash­ing­ton Street, for the dis­posal of un­used med­i­ca­tions.

In re­sponse to the in­creas­ing prob­lem with heroin in Dorch­ester County, Jones is launch­ing an ini­tia­tive to bring to­gether rel­e­vant agen­cies to co­he­sively fight the epi­demic from all sides– pre­ven­tion, en­force­ment, pros­e­cu­tion, and treat­ment.

The Ho­gan Ad­min­is­tra­tion also is mak­ing strides to fight the heroin epi­demic in com­mu­ni­ties across the state.

Up­per and Mid-Shore coun­ties were given more than $160,000 from the state to fight the heroin epi­demic.

Gov. Larry Ho­gan an­nounced Mon­day, Aug. 8, that his ad­min­is­tra­tion is pro­vid­ing $3 mil­lion in state grants to help erad­i­cate the heroin epi­demic through­out Mary­land.

The Heroin Co­or­di­na­tor Grant Pro­gram in­cludes $42,000 for the Dorch­ester County Coun­cil, $32,000 for the Kent County Sheriff’s Of­fice, $30,000 for the Tal­bot County Sheriff’s Of­fice, $60,000 for Mary­land State Po­lice and more.

“Through­out Mary­land, from our small­est town to our big­gest city, heroin is de­stroy­ing lives,” Ho­gan said. “A co­or­di­nated law en­force­ment and treat­ment re­sponse is es­sen­tial to our ad­min­is­tra­tion’s abil­ity to help fight this epi­demic and pro­vide our cit­i­zens with the life­sav­ing sup­port they need.”

The Heroin Co­or­di­na­tor Grant Pro­gram des­ig­nates the Bal­ti­more-Wash­ing­ton High In­ten­sity Drug Traf­fick­ing Area (HIDTA) as the cen­tral repos­i­tory for all Mary­land drug in­tel­li­gence. It was one of the rec­om­men­da­tions made by the Heroin & Opi­oid Emer­gency Task Force that made its way across the state in 2015, hold­ing heroin and opi­oid sum­mits with cit­i­zens, law en­force­ment, and health of­fi­cials in or­der to de­velop a plan to ad­dress the cri­sis.

The Safe Streets Ini­tia­tive is an of­fender-based pro­gram that tracks down and ar­rests the most se­ri­ous, vi­o­lent, and re­peat of­fend­ers while con­nect­ing those of­fend­ers strug­gling with sub­stance abuse to drug treat­ment, health care, ed­u­ca­tion, and other ser­vices.

This year, five Safe Streets sites will be funded to hire peer re­cov­ery spe­cial­ists to in­te­grate treat­ment into the model known as the Peer Re­cov­ery Spe­cial­ist Pro­gram. This ful­fills the task force’s rec­om­men­da­tion that peer re­cov­ery spe­cial­ists be in­te­grated into this pro­gram. These rec­om­men­da­tions are part of a holis­tic ap­proach that bal­ances law en­force­ment, treat­ment and pre­ven­tion pro­grams.

There are sev­eral ways for suf­fer­ers to get ad­vice or treat­ment to stem the ad­dic­tion prob­lem in Dorch­ester County. CPD has an anony­mous hot­line, 410-228DRUG, an app that al­lows one to send anony­mous texts, and sev­eral so­cial me­dia ac­counts that can serve as a point of con­tact.

Dorch­ester County Ad­dic­tions Pro­gram can be found at 524 Race Street or con­tacted at 410-228-7714. DriDock Re­cov­ery and Well­ness Cen­ter is lo­cated at 208 Star­burst High­way and can be reached by phone at 410228-3230. Both pro­grams also have web­sites.

PHOTO BY VIC­TO­RIA WIN­GATE

Cam­bridge Po­lice Lt. Justin Todd, left, Dorch­ester County Ad­dic­tions Di­rec­tor Don­ald Hall, Cam­bridge Po­lice Chief Daniel Dvo­rak, and Dorch­ester County State’s At­tor­ney Wil­liam Jones spoke at a press con­fer­ence Tues­day, Aug. 16, about the in­crease in heroin over­doses re­cently seen in the county.

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