Miller pro­poses drug pre­ven­tion pro­gram

Bill looks to take three­p­ronged ap­proach at bat­tling opioid ad­dic­tion

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

The fight against opioid use through­out the coun­try has con­tin­ued for years now, but Mary­land, specif­i­cally South­ern Mary­land, is look­ing to be­come a leader in drug and opioid use pre­ven­tion.

In Fe­bru­ary, State Se­nate Pres­i­dent Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D-Charles, Calvert, Prince Ge­orge’s) pro­posed the “Start Talk­ing Mary­land” act that would re­quire ed­u­ca­tional pro­grams through­out the state in school sys­tems. Ac­cord­ing to the bill, the state would part­ner with its school sys­tems, health de­part­ments and law en­force­ment pro­grams to spon­sor pro­grams that will fo­cus on pre­ven­tion, ed­u­ca­tion, treat­ment and re­cov­ery from opioid ad­dic­tion.

The ap­proach would be three­p­ronged, Miller said. The three sep­a­rate is­sues would be ed­u­ca­tion and pre­ven­tion, treat­ment and re­ha­bili­tion, and re­cov­ery and main­te­nance.

A pro­gram like this is needed, Miller said, be­cause the state is “fifth in the coun­try per capita in terms of heroin and opioid-re­lated deaths.”

In or­der to bring the bill to­gether and make it some­thing that could po­ten­tially be a bench­mark for dif­fer­ent places around the coun­try, Miller said, state of­fi­cials took pieces of pro­grams from around the coun­try and put them to­gether.

There is also a “very suc­cess­ful” pro­gram op­er­ated in Calvert County, he said, do­ing things sim­i­larly.

The drug af­fects so many peo­ple on a daily ba­sis, Miller said, so some­thing had to be done within the state to com­bat it.

“There is not one per­son in this state who has not been af­fected by the tragedy of drug ad­dic­tion in some way,” he said. “We know that opi­oids and opioid ad­dic­tions kill and they are in ev­ery county, ev­ery city, ev­ery com­mu­nity and ev­ery school.”

The goal, Miller said, is to have con­ver­sa­tions with ado­les­cents about opioid ad­dic­tion, what the po­ten­tial ef­fects are and what the ef­fects look like. There have to be “tough con­ver­sa­tions” with chil­dren in com­mu­ni­ties through­out the state to com­bat the is­sues at hand, he said.

“Start talk­ing Mary­land will help make that hap­pen,” he said.

Sen. Thomas “Mac” Mid­dle­ton (D-Charles) agreed with Miller that the con­ver­sa­tions would be tough, but he said they “are needed” through­out the coun­try, not only in Mary­land.

The pro­gram pro­posed by Miller, he said, could serve as an ex­am­ple of how to fight opioid ad­dic­tion through­out the coun­try. Mid­dle­ton said he spoke with a health con­sul­tant who called the pro­gram be­ing pro­posed was “by far the best that he’s seen any­where in the coun­try.”

“They could serve as a model,” Mid­dle­ton said. “It’s go­ing to pass.”

This bill, Mid­dle­ton said, will be pack­aged on the se­nate floor this week along with the Heroin and Opioid Pre­ven­tion Ef­fort and Treat­ment Ini­tia­tive of 2017, which was in­tro­duced by Gov. Larry Ho­gan (R) in Jan­uary. Mid­dle­ton said both bills will work in tan­dem and fur­ther push for the pre­ven­tion of drug ad­dic­tion in youth around the state.

Ev­ery com­mu­nity has the same prob­lem with drug ad­dic­tion, Mid­dle­ton said. The is­sues that are in Charles County and South­ern Mary­land are “un­be­liev­able,” he said.

Many par­ents are not even aware that chil­dren are “ex­per­i­ment­ing” with drugs and have po­ten­tial drug prob­lems, Mid­dle­ton said. This pro­gram will change that, he said.

“We need as many tools in the tool­box as we can in or­der to com­bat this,” he said. “I don’t think we can start too soon.”

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