Opioid awareness signs installed throughout QA’s
CENTREVILLE — In an attempt to raise awareness and gather community attention, the Queen Anne’s County Drug Free Coalition began its campaign last week against the national opioid epidemic by placing signs in two prominent locations that list the unofficial number of overdoses and deaths year-to-date in the county.
On the morning of Wednesday, June 28, members of the Drug Free Coalition, County Commissioner Jim Moran, law enforcement officers from the Centreville Police Department, the Queen Anne’s County Sheriff’s Office and Maryland State Police gathered at the Centreville Barrack off U.S. Route 301 to install its first opioid awareness sign.
Signs were erected outside the Maryland State Police Barrack as well as in front of Queen Anne’s County High School for maximum exposure. Signs are planned to be put up across from Kent Island High School, a location in Sudlersville that is yet to be determined, and, with the help of the state, near the entry of Queen Anne’s County coming off the Chesapeake Bay Bridge.
The signs, which unofficially account for the number of county citizens as well as visitors who have overdosed both in and outside of the county, list 20 overdoses and three deaths year-to-date.
The numbers, which will be updated regularly by Maryland State Police, gather statistics from January to May 2017. The signs outside of the high schools will be updated by each school resource officer from the sheriff’s office.
Maj. Dwayne Boardman of the sheriff’s office said he receives weekly updates on overdose and death numbers. During the Drug Free Coalition meeting at the Sheriff’s Office in June, members discussed how the number of overdoses and deaths the state officially counts only is determined by where the person actually has the incident, not where the person is from.
A press release from Maryland State Police said it is common for users to travel to more densely occupied areas to pick up their drugs and in turn use the illicit opioids elsewhere from the location they live.
According to the 2016 Drug- and Alcohol-Related Intoxication Deaths in Maryland report by the state Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, Queen Anne’s County had four heroin-related deaths, two prescription opioid deaths and four fentanyl deaths that occurred in the county limits.
The number of opioid related deaths statewide increased about 70 percent from 2015 to 2016 (from 1,089 to 1,856, respectively).
Two of the signs, which cost about $700, were purchased by Drug Free Coalition member Jim Roy. County Commissioner Jim Moran said the county would match Roy’s donation with two more signs.
Moran, who has been vocal about putting up awareness signs that reflect all of people affected in and outside of the county, said the signs are here to keep the community aware of what’s going on 24/7, 365 days a year.
Moran said at the end of the commission’s June 27 meeting that by counting an overdose or death as a statistic for another county when the resident is from Queen Anne’s County can make it look as if the epidemic is not as prevalent in the community.
“If they’re a citizen of Queen Anne’s County, they live here and they reside here and no matter where they die, it points to the problem we have in the community,” Moran said. “And by watering that down by saying, ‘well, they didn’t die here so we really don’t have a problem,’ I think is a gross neglect on the county’s part.”
Roy brought heavy equipment to each location to install the signs, Moran donated concrete and Friel’s Lumber Company contributed eight pressure treated posts.
Queen Anne’s County State’s Attorney Lance Richardson said the signs being in visible locations is a “sobering reminder” of the issue at hand and helps keep the awareness “fresh as an issue.”
Department of Emergency Services Director Scott Haas said putting the signs up was another step in the right direction by further making the public aware of how opioids are affecting the community.
“If these signs help to discourage one person from using heroin, we will have made a difference,” Drug Free Coalition Chairperson Warren Wright said.
The Drug Free Coalition meets bi-monthly at the sheriff’s office in Centreville the second Wednesday of the month from 8 to 10 a.m. in February, April, June, August, October and December.
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Lt. Tim McDonald with Maryland State Police, Scott Haas with the county’s Department of Emergency Services, County Commissioner Jim Moran, Centreville Police Chief Charlie Rhodes, Lt. Mark Meil with the Queen Anne’s County Sheriff’s Office, Jim Roy and State’s Attorney Lance Richardson stand by the newly installed opioid awareness sign installed across from Queen Anne’s County High School on June 28.
An opioid awareness sign was installed across the street from Queen Anne’s County High School on Wednesday, June 28, by members of the county’s Drug Free Coalition. The signs state the number of deaths and overdoses.