One Voice Dun­dalk to host third Over­dose Aware­ness Day event

The Dundalk Eagle - - FRONT PAGE - By MIKE URSERY murs­ery@ches­pub.com

On Our Own and One Voice Dun­dalk is there for those seek­ing free­dom from ad­dic­tion, but what hap­pens if it is forced to close?

Nancy My­ers had to an­swer that ques­tion this past March. When the COVID-19 virus made its way to Bal­ti­more County, sev­eral es­tab­lish­ments were forced to close. One of those hap­pened to be the build­ing that sits at 6718 Ho­labird Ave., across the street from Squires.

My­ers is the di­rec­tor of On Our Own and One Voice Dun­dalk, a sub­stance abuse re­cov­ery cen­ter that of­fers spe­cific ser­vices for those bat­tling sub­stance use dis­or­der, such as group coun­sel­ing, one-on-one coun­sel­ing, ed­u­ca­tional ac­tiv­i­ties, leisure ac­tiv­i­ties and ar­rang­ing lo­gis­tics for those ready to en­ter treat­ment.

“We opened July 6, but we had to be here alone to do what we could do with what

we were work­ing with when we were clean­ing the place and do­ing some harm re­duc­tion,” My­ers said. “Even though we were com­ing in and do­ing vir­tual train­ings and stuff, we still had a lot of stuff that hadn’t been touched in months.”

Those two words – harm re­duc­tion. Ac­cord­ing to the National Health Care for the Home­less Coun­cil, harm re­duc­tion is a set of prac­ti­cal strate­gies and ideas aimed at re­duc­ing the neg­a­tive con­se­quences as­so­ci­ated with drug use. In essence, harm re­duc­tion works with a goal to pre­vent deaths.

Aug. 31 is In­ter­na­tional Over­dose Aware­ness Day. One Voice Dun­dalk will hold its own In­ter­na­tional Over­dose Aware­ness Day event for the third straight year. The past two years, the event has fea­tured things such as Nalox­one train­ing, ba­sic first aid, and where and how to call for help dur­ing emer­gen­cies. The or­ga­ni­za­tion’s in­tent is to spread aware­ness about an on­go­ing prob­lem in Dun­dalk in­volv­ing sub­stance use dis­or­der.

Sta­tis­tics from the Mary­land Depart­ment of Health show that there were 2,406 deaths re­lated to drugs and/or al­co­hol in 2018. Of that to­tal, more than 2,000 were opi­oidrelated. Heroin was re­spon­si­ble for 119 deaths in Bal­ti­more County that year, while 71 deaths were at­trib­uted to pre­scrip­tion opi­oids. Fen­tanyl, a highly-pow­er­ful syn­thetic opi­oid, was re­spon­si­ble for 1,888 deaths in 2018, with 308 of those deaths hap­pen­ing in Bal­ti­more County.

One of the ser­vices of­fered at One Voice Dun­dalk is help­ing mem­bers ap­ply for ben­e­fits – sub­sis­tence, hous­ing, WIC, etc. My­ers said that dur­ing the cen­ter’s shut­down, which lasted more than four months, sev­eral mem­bers lost ac­cess to ben­e­fits. In­ter­net ac­cess and ac­cess to a tele­phone are vi­tal com­po­nents for ap­ply­ing for as­sis­tance.

When they did re­open in July, it took a sig­nif­i­cant amount of time to sub­mit ap­pli­ca­tions and have ben­e­fits re­in­stated for mem­bers. Also tak­ing a sig­nif­i­cant amount of time, get­ting mem­bers back into their nor­mal rou­tines at the cen­ter.

“Even though we prob­a­bly don’t do a whole lot, we do pro­vide them with harm re­duc­tion all day long,” My­ers said. “When they’re in here, they’re not do­ing what they nor­mally do.”

Also ap­pear­ing at One Voice Dun­dalk’s In­ter­na­tional Over­dose Aware­ness Day event will be Amazin’ Re­cov­ery Treat­ment Ser­vices (ARTS). ARTS is lo­cated at 6730 Ho­labird Ave, which di­rec­tor Pamela Jack­son said is the lo­ca­tion she picked be­cause a lot of peo­ple in the area who need help can be found there.

“I opened my doors as soon as the pandemic started and we won­dered where did the peo­ple go,” Jack­son said. “I con­tacted [One Voice] and fired off some emails, and I found out they were closed be­cause of the pandemic. Once they opened, I’ve been here ev­ery day try­ing to get peo­ple to come over.”

“My hope is be­cause [My­ers] is lim­ited in what she can do, if they know they can come over to ARTS and get some­where to sit and get in­for­ma­tion that can save their lives. If she can bring in some of the ones that don’t have the de­sire to go to treat­ment, if she has 10 and I have 10, that’s 20 more op­por­tu­ni­ties.”

Some of the pro­grams of­fered at ARTS in­clude com­mu­nity in­te­gra­tion for adults, ado­les­cents and young chil­dren, as well as in­ten­sive out­pa­tient treat­ment for drugs, al­co­hol and other ad­dic­tions. Jack­son said the cen­ter also has an agency that of­fers med­i­cally-as­sisted treat­ment that peo­ple can seek as well.

“We took in a guy [last week] who is home­less and is sleep­ing in the woods, but he is de­ter­mined to do his ther­apy with us,” Jack­son said. “Hope­fully, we can get him some­where sta­ble. He wants to work. He has the de­sire.”

“He said to me, ‘I’m go­ing to back and tell ev­ery­body else that you are here.’”

Spend­ing just one day at One Voice Dun­dalk can open one’s eyes to the grim re­al­ity of the sub­stance use dis­or­der is­sue in Dun­dalk. The mem­bers who visit come from dif­fer­ent walks of life, each be­ing led to the re­cov­ery com­mu­nity cen­ter by way of dif­fer­ing cir­cum­stances.

One such mem­ber, who elected to re­main anony­mous, told the Ea­gle that they have been liv­ing in Dun­dalk “off and on” for the past 10 years.They were born and raised in Bal­ti­more City. This per­son said they have a grand­mother who lives in Dun­dalk and their mother moved to Dun­dalk some time ago.

“[Grow­ing up in Bal­ti­more] was rough at times,” this per­son said. “I re­mem­ber seeing a lot of drugs as a child but didn’t know what they were. I just knew they didn’t smell like cig­a­rettes.”

“My par­ents would close and lock the door to do them. I grew up hang­ing around peo­ple who were two or three years older than me, and some of them were maybe seven or eight years older than me. They were all into sniff­ing heroin. I had tried it just a few times.”

This per­son said they were pre­scribed Per­co­cet af­ter hav­ing a surgery per­formed. The pre­scrip­tion ran out af­ter two years, and they re­sorted to find­ing them on the street. When that didn’t work, they be­gan us­ing heroin reg­u­larly.

“The first time I ever tried it I was 12 years old,” they said. “I strug­gle with it still to this day. I’ll be 41 in Novem­ber.”

This per­son said they are cur­rently in a Methadone pro­gram, but they are still strug­gling with the ad­dic­tion.

An­other mem­ber, who also chose to re­main anony­mous, said they are cur­rently liv­ing with their mother and neph­ews. He is try­ing to ar­range to re­ceive so­cial se­cu­rity and use it to find his own place to live.

“That way I can have my own life,” they said. “My mom, she doesn’t give me money. I’m out here pan­han­dling and beg­ging peo­ple for money.”

One Voice Dun­dalk Re­cov­ery Com­mu­nity Cen­ter’s In­ter­na­tional Over­dose Aware­ness Day event is Aug. 31 from 10 a.m.-6 p.m. at 6718 Ho­labird Ave. Jack­son said she will give away masks and hand san­i­tizer to those who do not have ac­cess to PPE.

My­ers said One Voice Dun­dalk will also hand out PPE to those with­out ac­cess. Those who at­tend the event will also have op­por­tu­ni­ties to re­ceive ed­u­ca­tion on ad­min­is­ter­ing Nalox­one, harm re­duc­tion and why it’s necessary, sub­stance use dis­or­der dur­ing a pandemic, and re­cov­ery and treat­ment re­sources.

PHOTO BY MIKE URSERY

Di­rec­tor of Men­tal Health at One Voice Dun­dalk Nancy My­ers (left) and sub­stance use peer coun­selor Erin are in the fi­nal plan­ning stage of their third In­ter­na­tional Over­dose Aware­ness Day.

PHOTO BY MIKE URSERY

Clothes, child car seats and other ba­sic ne­ces­si­ties are just some of the things One Voice Dun­dalk col­lects to give to its mem­bers.

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