Fighting the heroin epidemic in Dorchester
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.
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.