Drug-Free Coalition hosts town hall on effects of addiction
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.
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.
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.