County starts new ef­fort to take opi­oids out of homes

Charles pi­lots new ini­tia­tive to cut down pill ad­dic­tion

Maryland Independent - - Front Page - By MICHAEL SYKES II msykes@somd­news.com

Car­rie Tiller, a pa­tient in the Charles County Jude House, knows ex­actly what path opi­oids can lead a per­son down.

Af­ter a car ac­ci­dent more in 2008, Tiller, a mother of two, said she got into a car ac­ci­dent, to­taled her truck and had dam­age to her clav­i­cle. She went to the hospi­tal and was pre­scribed pain killers to cope with her in­juries.

That’s when it all started, she said.

“It didn’t start out as too much. But within two months I was ex­ceed­ing the need,” Tiller said.

Be­fore too long, Tiller said, she was vis­it­ing mul­ti­ple doc­tors to get mul­ti­ple pre­scrip­tions, steal­ing med­i­ca­tion from loved one’s

medicine cab­i­nets and sell­ing pre­scrip­tions just to be able to buy more.

Af­ter a short stint in jail, Tiller be­gan to take heroin in place of the drugs she could no longer af­ford af­ter her re­lease. She sep­a­rated her­self from her loved ones be­fore she was even­tu­ally in­dicted on theft charges and sen­tenced to 14 years in prison.

“I just didn’t care about my­self or any­thing around me,” Tiller said. But then she had an epiphany. “I’m alive,” she said. “I was still alive. And that was enough” to change the way she thought.

Tiller sought help and was even­tu­ally granted a “re­lease on com­mit­ment” into a drug re­hab pro­gram with the Jude House. Now, she said, she’s shar­ing her story to show what kind of peo­ple the county’s drug take back pro­gram can save.

“It’s killing peo­ple. Good peo­ple. We need to work to­gether to get these pre­scrip­tion drugs off of the street,” Tiller said. “Spread the word.”

The county’s new drug take back pro­gram, spear­headed by Charles County Com­mis­sioner Pres­i­dent Peter Mur­phy (D), who is formerly an ad­dic­tion coun­selor, aims to give peo­ple the op­por­tu­nity to send un­needed drugs away and re­move the pos­si­bil­ity of them end­ing up in the streets or in the hands of chil­dren around the county.

There is state leg­is­la­tion that al­lows phar­ma­cies to take back un­needed drugs and dis­pose of them, but be­fore this new Charles County ini­tia­tive there were not clear ways of do­ing it, Mur­phy said. But in part­ner­ing with lo­cal phar­ma­cies around the county, cit­i­zens can now get drugs out of their homes.

“Peo­ple would flush them down their toi­lets, put them in the trash and they would go in our land­fills. And worse, they would leave them in their medicine cab­i­nets,” Mur­phy said. “What this ini­tia­tive does to­day is it makes a pro­gram that would be more con­ve­nient to our cit­i­zens.”

Funded by a $20,215 grant from the state, the pro­gram puts med­i­ca­tion dis­posal boxes in six lo­cal phar­ma­cies across the county. Cit­i­zens are given paid postage pack­age bags from the phar­macy they are re­turn­ing their drugs at and can drop it into the bag is sent to a com­pany spe­cial­iz­ing in de­stroy­ing the drugs.

Un­like the state and county’s “Take Back” drug day, where the Charles County Sher­iff’s Of­fice dis­poses of opi­oids given to them by cit­i­zen’s, this ini­tia­tive is con­tin­u­ous. As long as the phar­ma­cies the boxes are lo­cated at are open, cit­i­zens may turn their un­used pre­scrip­tions in.

“Then they’re off the streets,” Mur­phy said.

The county al­ready had pre­ven­tion ini­tia­tives in place through the school sys­tem and the county’s sher­iff’s of­fice, Mur­phy said, but this adds an­other layer to hope­fully re­move more un­used pre­scrip­tions and con­tinue to re­duce the re­cidi­vism rate in the county.

In or­der to con­tinue rais­ing fund­ing for the pro­gram, it will be­come part of the prop­erty tax bill for cit­i­zens next year, Mur­phy said. The state is cur­rently fund­ing the pro­gram, he said, but they do have to de­cide if they will con­tinue to do so. “We hope they will,” he said.

Lt. Gov­er­nor Boyd Ruther­ford (R) said the county’s new ini­tia­tive goes fur­ther in the di­rec­tion of pre­vent­ing peo­ple from be­gin­ning to use opi­oids and treat­ing those who do rather than just in­car­cer­at­ing users, which is the gov­er­nor’s aim.

The pro­gram that al­lowed Tiller a re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion re­lease is the same one that Ho­gan’s ad­min­is­tra­tion has put more fund­ing into hop­ing to re­duce re­cidi­vism rates across the state, Ruther­ford said.

The next step, he said, is con­tin­u­ing to ed­u­cate the youth in the county about opi­oid use and what it can do. Teach­ing pre­ven­tion starts early, he said.

“Vir­tu­ally ev­ery third grader can tell you how bad cig­a­rettes are for you but they can’t tell you how dan­ger­ous it is to take some­one else’s pre­scrip­tions,” Ruther­ford said.

Charles County is the first ju­ris­dic­tion in the state to have a pro­gram of this na­ture, he said, and will set an ex­am­ple other places around the state want to fol­low.

The county was a good place to start, he said, be­cause it was one of the more vo­cal ju­ris­dic­tions against opi­oid use when Ho­gan was ini­tially cam­paign­ing. The ini­tia­tive will not work overnight, he said, but “it’s a good step.”

Mur­phy said the county will mar­ket the ini­tia­tive

with fly­ers in lo­cal phar­ma­cies and at the county’s head­quar­ters in La Plata. The county will also con­tinue to en­cour­age dif­fer­ent de­part­ments to join in on ini­tia­tives in any way they can.

County Com­mis­sioner Ken Robin­son (D) said Mur­phy’s past as a state del­e­gate, a bi­ol­o­gist and an ad­dic­tion coun­selor put Charles County in the right place for this ini­tia­tive.

“We wouldn’t be here with­out him,” Robin­son said.

Tiller, who con­tin­ues to work to bet­ter her­self and inspire oth­ers, said she hopes the ini­tia­tive works out for the bet­ter and helps peo­ple avoid the dif­fer­ent pit­falls she went through.

STAFF PHOTO BY MICHAEL SYKES II

Charles County Com­mis­sioner Pres­i­dent Peter Mur­phy and Lt. Gov­er­nor Boyd Ruther­ford share a laugh at the podium as they in­tro­duce the county’s new Drug Take Back pro­gram at a press con­fer­ence at the Charles County Ad­min­is­tra­tion build­ing on Fri­day.

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