Opioid crisis hitting rural communities in Maryland hardest.
DENTON, MD. | If there is one hopeful thing about Maryland’s opioid crisis, it’s that no one is denying the obvious.
“Very honestly, nothing is working,” says Frederick County Sheriff Chuck Jenkins. “It’s unlike anything we’ve ever seen.”
For rural areas, where communities are small and the stigma is large, opioids can be particularly insidious. The man who jumped out of the moving ambulance after getting revived by naloxone might be an old high school classmate. The woman selling drugs at the hospital to fellow addicts could be the little sister of a good friend.
The epidemic is also a serious drag on government and medical resources in places where budgets already are stretched.
But while the opioid crisis appears to be kicking Maryland’s rural populations while they’re down, the silver lining might be in the size and inherent closeness of those communities, which are beginning to coordinate efforts to combat opioids in ways that simply aren’t possible in the state’s more populated counties.
“In our small area, opioids affect pretty much every family one way or another,” said Tommy Conneely, who runs the Lost Sheep Recovery Mission in Caroline County and said he has been seven years sober from alcohol.
Caroline, like other rural counties, is beginning to harmonize their anti-opioid efforts across a wide range of public, private and faith-based groups. The county’s drug and alcohol abuse council includes a diverse collection of law enforcement, education, substance abuse and mental health officials.
And people like Mr. Conneely, who, as an ex-cop now involved in faith-based recovery efforts, brings a wholly unique perspective.
The Caroline drug council is in the midst of a series of events hosted at volunteer fire departments, where the FBI documentary “Chasing the Dragon” is being shown, followed by a discussion initiated by former addicts and their parents.
“We found that we had a lot of family members [attend] who had loved ones in active addiction who needed support,” said Holly Ireland, executive director of Mid-Shore Behavioral Health, a referral and planning agency that receives some state funding and operates in Caroline, Dorchester, Kent, Queen Anne’s and Talbot counties. “What we haven’t quite figured out is how to tackle engaging the community that is addicted.”