Drug-Free Coali­tion hosts town hall on ef­fects of ad­dic­tion

Record Observer - - News - By MIKE DAVIS mdavis@kibay­times.com

STEVENSVILLE — A slide show pro­jected onto the Stevensville Mid­dle School gym­na­sium stage showed the faces of ad­dic­tion and the phys­i­cal trans­for­ma­tions each in­di­vid­ual went through as a re­sult of drug use and abuse. Slide by slide, young-look­ing peo­ple turned to old and wrin­kled through the mugshot pho­tos of each, many with lit­tle re­sem­blance of their for­mer selves.

Out­side, where the buses nor­mally drop stu­dents off for school, was a trailer formed to look like a stu­dent’s bed­room. A hand­ful of peo­ple at a time had the op­por­tu­nity to scour the mock teen bed­room, owned by Kent Is­land United Methodist Church, in search of hid­den drugs.

On Thurs­day, Oct. 12, Queen Anne’s County com­mu­nity mem­bers gath­ered at Stevensville Mid­dle School to lis­ten, learn and ask ques­tions about the heroin and opi­ate epi­demic plagu­ing the na­tion, as well as hear from speak­ers with first-hand knowl­edge and ex­pe­ri­ence.

The in­for­ma­tional event was the sec­ond in­stall­ment of the “Not My Child?” town hall ses­sion hosted by the Queen Anne’s Drug-Free Coali­tion.

“This is some­thing that we as a group, I’m talk­ing about the Drug-Free Coali­tion, can’t fix this with­out the help from out school board, lo­cal gov­ern­ment, state gov­ern­ment and es­pe­cially all the par­ents,” County Com­mis­sioner Jim Mo­ran said.

Mo­ran, the county com­mis­sion’s li­ai­son to the Drug-Free Coali­tion the past three years, said the au­di­to­rium the au­di­ence was sit­ting in legally can hold 991 peo­ple, per the state fire

mar­shal. In the past year alone, he said, more peo­ple have died from heroin and opi­ate over­doses.

“This is an epi­demic. The gov­er­nor hit the nail on the head when he called it an epi­demic,” Mo­ran said.

First Sgt. Mor­ris “Sonny” Jones with the Sher­iff’s Of­fice mod­er­ated the open­ing ses­sion and said rather than have the speak­ers all sit­ting be­hind a ta­ble on the stage like the first opi­ate, heroin town hall meet­ing, the Drug-Free Coali­tion wanted to cre­ate a more in­for­ma­tional op­por­tu­ni­ties. Spread through­out the school in six class­rooms were break­out ses­sions run by a wide-rang­ing group of speak­ers.

Af­ter the open­ing re­marks by each break­out ses­sion mod­er­a­tor in­form­ing the group what their room would be dis­cussing, at­ten­dees had about 20 min­utes per room.

Ses­sion top­ics were as fol­lows: en­force­ment with Sher­iff Gary Hof­mann and depart­ment per­son­nel; over­doses and how to ad­min­is­ter the life-sav­ing drug Nar­can with EMS Asst. Chief Scott Wheat­ley; prose­cu­tion, in­car­cer­a­tion and pro­ba­tion with State’s At­tor­ney Lance Richard­son, De­ten­tion Cen­ter War­den LaMonte Cooke and county Ju­ve­nile Jus­tice Ser­vices Su­per­vi­sor Joe Gra­bis; Cathy and Brit­tany Timms shared their ex­pe­ri­ence with hav­ing a son and brother die from an over­dose and the af­fect it has on the fam­ily as well as in­for­ma­tion from Lt. Tim McDon­ald with Mary­land State Po­lice and a re­cov­er­ing ad­dict; and a re­cov­er­ing ad­dicts and al­co­holics ses­sion room.

A com­fort room for pri­vate con­sul­ta­tion was also avail­able.

Many of the speak­ers ref­er­enced the same chal­lenges in deal­ing with the opi­ate epi­demic, as well as sen­ti­ments on the re­cov­ery process: you can’t just ar­rest your way out of it; there’s a lack of treat­ment fa­cil­i­ties for peo­ple to get help; once peo­ple are ar­rested for drug use, fund­ing for de­ten­tion cen­ter drug re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion pro­grams can be slim, as well as sim­ply space to hold those pro­grams; com­mu­ni­ca­tion is crit­i­cal in mak­ing peo­ple aware that the prob­lem isn’t just in the poor in­ner city ar­eas, but also in af­flu­ent ar­eas as peo­ple go from le­gal pre­scrip­tion med­i­ca­tion to heroin be­cause an ad­dic­tion is cre­ated and the lat­ter is much cheaper to pur­chase; the heart­break a fam­ily goes through not just af­ter a fam­ily mem­ber death, but the “liv­ing hell” it was at times han­dling a child with an ad­dic­tion; and how af­ter fight­ing off the ad­dic­tion al­lows some­one to wake up “free” and not de­pen­dent on any­thing but them­selves.

Ven­dors be­fore and dur­ing the pro­gram from through­out the re­gion were set up in the hall­ways where at­ten­dees could ask ques­tions and get in­for­ma­tional hand­outs.

It’s not about law en­force­ment ver­sus the ad­dict, Hof­mann said: “It’s all of us to­gether to help the per­son and get them back to so­ci­ety.”

With­out a col­lab­o­ra­tive ef­fort in com­bat­ing the epi­demic, Richard­son said, “we can’t han­dle this.” But from Richard­son’s per­spec­tive, it “seems like peo­ple want to help.”

The Queen Anne’s County Drug-Free Coali­tion is com­prised mostly of cit­i­zen vol­un­teers. Mem­bers meet the sec­ond Wed­nes­day of ev­ery other month (Fe­bru­ary, April, June, Au­gust, Oc­to­ber and De­cem­ber) from 8 to 10 a.m. in Centreville at the Sher­iff’s Of­fice. Com­mit­tee meet­ings are held more fre­quently as strate­gies un­fold to pre­vent al­co­hol, mar­i­juana and opi­ate use among chil­dren, young adults and adults.

The Coali­tion’s Face­book page, which is up­dated fre­quently, is https://face­book.com/qacdfc.

Fol­low Mike Davis on Twit­ter: @mike_k­ibay­times.

PHO­TOS BY MIKE DAVIS

Char­ac­ter Counts! Co­or­di­na­tor Elaine Butler talks with Char­ac­ter Counts! coach and Deputy State’s At­tor­ney Michael Cuches dur­ing the Kent Is­land town hall at Stevensville Mid­dle School on Thurs­day, Oct. 12.

Queen Anne’s County War­den LaMonte Cooke brought weapons and drug para­pher­na­lia seized at the county’s de­ten­tion cen­ter to the Kent Is­land town hall event on Thurs­day, Oct. 12, to give peo­ple a small idea of the dan­gers of be­ing in­car­cer­ated.

PHO­TOS BY MIKE DAVIS

First Sgt. Mor­ris “Sonny” Jones, mod­er­a­tor of the sec­ond Kent Is­land town hall at Stevensville Mid­dle School on Thurs­day, Oct. 12, in­tro­duced the panel mem­bers for the heroin and opi­ate in­for­ma­tional break­out ses­sions.

Queen Anne’s County State’s At­tor­ney Lance Richard­son, along with War­den LaMonte Cooke and Ju­ve­nile Jus­tice Ser­vices Su­per­vi­sor Joe Gra­bis, speak with res­i­dents about the ju­di­cial and in­car­cer­a­tion side of the herion and opi­ate epi­demic dur­ing the Kent Is­land town hall on Thurs­day, Oct. 12, at Stevensville Mid­dle School.

Queen Anne’s County Sher­iff Gary Hof­mann speaks with Queen Anne’s County res­i­dents about the heroin and opi­ate epi­demic, and how law en­force­ment is tack­ling the is­sue, dur­ing a break­out ses­sion at the Kent Is­land town hall held at Stevensville Mid­dle School on Thurs­day, Oct. 12.

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