Know the facts and get pre­pared for In­ter­na­tional Over­dose Aware­ness Day

The Dundalk Eagle - - FRONT PAGE - By KAITLIN KULICH and MIKE URSERY kkulich@ches­pub.com murs­ery@ches­pub.com

BAL­TI­MORE COUNTY—Aug. 31 is Over­dose Aware­ness Day, a day ded­i­cated to cre­at­ing a bet­ter un­der­stand­ing of over­dose, re­duc­ing the stigma of drug-re­lated deaths and cre­at­ing change that re­duces the harms as­so­ci­ated with drug use.

This year has pre­sented the coun­try, the state of Mary­land, and Bal­ti­more County with an in­creas­ingly com­plex set of pub­lic health challenges. While the COVID-19 pan­demic is still among us, the opi­oid cri­sis is still rear­ing its ugly head and con­tin­u­ing to take lives.

Ac­cord­ing to the Mary­land Opi­oid Op­er­a­tional

Com­mand Cen­ter’s re­port (OOCC) for the first quar­ter of 2020 (Jan­uary 1 to March 31), in­tox­i­ca­tion­re­lated deaths from all types of drugs and al­co­hol in­creased through­out the en­tire state when com­pared to the first quar­ter of 2019. Opi­oid-re­lated deaths in­creased by 2.6 per­cent in the same pe­riod.

Opi­oid-re­lated emer­gency de­part­ment vis­its and EMS nalox­one ad­min­is­tra­tions

were down sub­stan­tially in the first quar­ter of 2020. Steven Schuh, Ex­ec­u­tive Di­rec­tor of OOCC, said in his mes­sage in the quar­terly re­port that typ­i­cally the emer­gency vis­its and nalox­one statis­tics would rise in cor­re­la­tion with fa­tal­i­ties. The fact that they down in­di­cates dis­rup­tions in the state’s broader re­sponse sys­tems that may have lin­ger­ing ef­fects on peo­ple who use drugs.

“The pan­demic has com­pli­cated our abil­ity to re­spond to the con­tin­u­ing opi­oid and sub­stance use cri­sis, which re­mains one of the great­est pub­lic health challenges ever to face our state,” Schuh said.

“We hope to be­gin si­mul­ta­ne­ously stanch­ing the im­me­di­ate fall­out from the pan­demic and lay­ing the ground­work for the months and years ahead when the full ef­fects of the pan­demic on the sub­stance use cri­sis are clearer.”

Bal­ti­more County’s Health De­part­ment is fol­low­ing suit in the way the state has ad­dressed both the pan­demic and the on­go­ing opi­oid cri­sis. Hav­ing 80 opi­oid-re­lated in­tox­i­ca­tion fa­tal­i­ties re­ported in the first quar­ter of 2020, sec­ond most out of the 24 ju­ris­dic­tions in the state, the county’s health de­part­ment has had their work cut out for them.

“The first quar­ter num­bers for Bal­ti­more County show a slight in­crease over the same pe­riod in 2019. As a county, we would ob­vi­ously like to see those num­bers de­crease. But if you look at the Bal­ti­more County Opi­oid Re­sponse Work­ing Group Fi­nal Re­port from Novem­ber 2019, you will find that Bal­ti­more County has come a long way to­ward fully adopt­ing each of those rec­om­men­da­tions,” the county health de­part­ment said in an ex­clu­sive press re­lease to The Dun­dalk Ea­gle.

“It may take time to see an im­pact, but we are well ahead of where we were even a year ago with re­gard to treat­ment op­tions in Bal­ti­more County.”

A method used by the state to com­bat the opi­oid epi­demic is by cre­at­ing Opi­oid In­ter­ven­tion Teams (OITs) for each jurisdicti­on in the state. These teams are then are tasked with mak­ing sure their com­mu­ni­ties meet cer­tain state bench marks re­lated to the opi­oid epi­demic. Some of these bench marks in­volve harm re­duc­tion, cre­at­ing peer re­cov­ery spe­cial­ist pro­grams, and col­lab­o­rat­ing with com­mu­nity or­ga­ni­za­tions to elim­i­nate the stigma as­so­ci­ated with ad­dic­tion.

Ac­cord­ing to the county health de­part­ment, Bal­ti­more County’s OIT has im­ple­mented mea­sures that the OOCC now en­cour­ages in other ju­ris­dic­tions.

“Bal­ti­more County Opi­oid In­ter­ven­tion Team has part­nered with us to raise aware­ness by help­ing to pro­mote our free Nalox­one train­ings and mak­ing li­brary lo­ca­tions avail­able as train­ing sites,” the county health de­part­ment said.

In ad­di­tion to es­tab­lish­ing part­ner­ships with or­ga­ni­za­tions like the county li­brary, the county health de­part­ment re­cently was rec­og­nized by the Na­tional As­so­ci­a­tion of Coun­ties (NACo) 2020 Achieve­ment Award for its harm re­duc­tion pro­gram. The pro­gram re­ceived the award for em­ploy­ing a pub­lic health nurse to in­te­grate healthre­lated ser­vices within the Harm Re­duc­tion model – the first harm re­duc­tion pro­gram in the state to do so.

“Driven by our goal to ac­cel­er­ate ef­forts for ad­dress­ing opi­oid mis­use, we launched an ef­fort to en­gage our part­ners and the pub­lic around iden­ti­fy­ing rec­om­men­da­tions for im­prove­ments. The rec­om­men­da­tions are cap­tured in the Bal­ti­more County Opi­oid Re­sponse Work­ing Group Fi­nal Re­port. Work is on­go­ing to ad­dress these rec­om­men­da­tions,” the health de­part­ment said.

The county health de­part­ment is con­tin­u­ing these ser­vices while also ad­dress­ing the COVID-19 pan­demic.

The Bureau of Bureau Health/Lo­cal Be­hav­ioral Health Au­thor­ity has in­cor­po­rated al­ter­na­tive tools in or­der to con­tinue to pro­vide sub­stance screen­ing and other ser­vices. Nalox­one train­ings are now con­ducted vir­tu­ally and Nalox­one kits are made avail­able af­ter train­ing is com­pleted.

Vir­tual ser­vices are pro­vided to in­mates in the Med­i­ca­tion As­sisted Treat­ment Pro­gram and the de­part­ment sates it has sup­ported com­mu­nity part­ners as they have tran­si­tioned to uti­liz­ing tele­health ser­vices. Per­sonal pro­tec­tive Equip­ment (PPE) is pro­vided when ap­pro­pri­ate for non-tele­health

ser­vices. The de­part­ment’s 88-REACH lines re­mains op­er­a­tional and call ac­cess to Peer Re­cov­ery Spe­cial­ists are avail­able Mon­day through Satur­day from 8:30 a.m. to midnight.

The en­tire state has seen an in­crease in in­tox­i­cated re­lated deaths and when asked if there could be any cor­re­la­tions be­tween the corona virus pan­demic and this in­crease in in­tox­i­cated re­lated deaths the county health de­part­ment said,

“The cur­rent data does not show a spike in over­doses as a re­sult of COVID-19 in Bal­ti­more County. How­ever, we did see an in­crease in other ar­eas like deaths from al­co­hol. Fur­ther­more, we are con­tin­u­ing to see an in­crease in non-opi­oid over­doses that show the pres­ence of opi­oids. In other words, many drugs are now be­ing mixed with opi­oids like fen­tanyl.”

While the de­part­ment hy­poth­e­sizes that iso­la­tion and other COVID-re­lated life changes like em­ploy­ment and hous­ing in­se­cu­rity is af­fect­ing an in­crease in in­tox­i­ca­tion deaths, they are still work­ing to col­lect data to iden­tify the re­la­tion­ship be­tween over­doses and COVID.

One of the de­part­ments lat­est projects it is wok­ing on is its anti-stigma cam­paign, which was one of the Bal­ti­more County Opi­oid Re­sponse Work­ing Group Fi­nal Re­port rec­om­men­da­tions. The Bal­ti­more County Health De­part­ment is close to fi­nal­iz­ing the pa­ram­e­ters of this pro­gram, and hopes to have it com­pleted in the com­ing weeks.

Lo­cal Or­ga­ni­za­tions Rec­og­nize Over­dose Aware­ness Day

On Mon­day, Au­gust 31, Hopes Hori­zon, lo­cated at 4111 E Joppa Rd, Ste 101

in Not­ting­ham will hold their an­nual Over­dose Aware­ness Day pa­rade. The pa­rade will start at 12:00 p.m. at the cen­ter’s build­ing.

Micheal So­ley, the di­rec­tor at Hopes Hori­zon, said clients, staff mem­bers, and peo­ple through­out the com­mu­nity get to­gether for this pa­rade ev­ery year to re­mem­ber loved one in their lives who have passed away from over­dos­ing.

“Af­ter the pa­rade peo­ple come back to the cen­ter and talk about those who they have lost and we usu­ally have some­one share a mes­sage of hope all while there is a cook­out go­ing on.”

One Voice Dun­dalk will also hold its own In­ter­na­tional Over­dose Aware­ness Day event for the third straight year on Au­gust 31 from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. at 6718 Ho­labird Ave. 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 Eastern Bal­ti­more County in­volv­ing sub­stance use dis­or­der.

One of the ser­vices of­fered at One Voice Dun­dalk is help­ing mem­bers ap­ply for ben­e­fits – sub­sis­tence, hous­ing, WIC, etc. Nancy My­ers, di­rec­tor of On Our Own and One Voice Dun­dalk, said that dur­ing the cen­ter’s COVID-19 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, said that they have been liv­ing in eastern Bal­ti­more County “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.”

My­ers said One Voice Dun­dalk will 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.

Other Bal­ti­more County opi­oid treat­ment/ re­hab cen­ters in­clude Hopes Hori­zon,

lo­cated at 4111 E Joppa Rd, Ste 101 in Not­ting­ham, EPOCH Coun­sel­ing Cen­ter East lo­cated at 621 Stem­mers Run Road Stem-Ross Pro­fes­sional Cen­ter in Es­sex, S and S Coun­sel­ing Ser­vices lo­cated at 1212 Philco Road in Rosedale.

While it might not al­ways be pos­si­ble for peo­ple to pay for treat­ment ser­vices, Nar­cotics Anony­mous (NA) meet­ings are a free resource. New Life Church lo­cated at 1116 Mid­dle River Road in Mid­dle River hosts a NA meet­ing ev­ery Mon­day at 7:00 p.m. Call (800) 407-7195 to speak with a Place­ment Spe­cial­ist.

PHOTO BY MIKE URSERY

From left: Diana An­thony, peer sup­port spe­cial­ist, Nancy My­ers, Pro­gram Di­rec­tor, Erin Light­ner, peer re­cov­ery spe­cial­ist, Theresa Lands­man, peer vol­un­teer for Once Voice Dun­dalk.

PHOTO COUR­TESY OF HOPES HORI­ZON

Peo­ple hold up en­cour­ag­ing posters dur­ing Hope Hori­zon’s 2018 Over­dose Aware­ness Day

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