Queen Anne’s County of­fi­cially goes pur­ple

The Kent Island Bay Times - - Front Page - By KRISTIAN JAIME Kjaime@ches­pub.com

CH­ESTER — As can­dles flick­ered in the dusky light at the Kent Is­land Vol­un­teer Fire De­part­ment Thurs­day, Sept. 6, the gath­ered crowd of­fi­cially kicked off the county’s cam­paign to go pur­ple.

With 94 opi­oid over­doses to date and 13 sub­se­quent fa­tal­i­ties, Queen Anne’s County took the op­por­tu­nity to spread aware­ness to nearly 50 pa­trons of the dan­gers of ad­dic­tion and the path­ways by which many ar­rived at that point. Also dis­cussed at the kick-off was the all too hu­man cost of los­ing a loved one to ad­dic­tion.

“The en­tire East­ern Shore go­ing pur­ple is al­low­ing us the au­di­ence we al­ways wanted,” said County Com­mis­sioner Jim Mo­ran. “We’ve been work­ing for this for three years to get the mes­sage to peo­ple they don’t need drugs. There isn’t much funds out there for this, so this is a

grass­roots ef­fort. The grant we re­ceived is cov­er­ing some of what we’re do­ing, but it’s small and it’s go­ing to take everyone.”

Ac­cord­ing to Mo­ran, funds spent on preven­tion are in­valu­able as preven­tion at­tacks the prob­lem at the root. Treat­ment dol­lars also put ad­dic­tion in the proper per­spec­tive as an ill­ness rather than some­thing with which to be dealt puni­tively.

Queen Anne’s County has com­piled 81 non-fatal over­doses to date mak­ing it the high­est tally on the East­ern Shore. The 68 heroin-re­lated ar­rests also gives the county the sec­ond-most on the East­ern Shore.

“In 2013, we were the sec­ond county to bring Nar­can to po­lice ve­hi­cles,” said Queen Anne’s County Sher­iff Gary Hof­mann. “We saw this epi­demic com­ing in 2014, and peo­ple thought we were crazy. Now, sadly, it’s some­thing of­fi­cers have to use on in­di­vid­u­als al­most daily. Our goal in law en­force­ment is to get peo­ple into re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion. We’ve been suc­cess­ful lately to do that.”

Among the rea­sons why, Hof­mann ex­plained, was the net­work of com­mu­nity part­ners that have opened their doors for treat­ment beds. First re­spon­ders are among those deal­ing with the same in­di­vid­u­als over­dos­ing on a reg­u­lar ba­sis. That to­tals 11 known re­peat of­fend­ers.

For those rou­tinely treated for opi­oid over­doses, the de­ci­sion to seek treat­ment is of­ten one that is per­sonal.

Vic­tims of ad­dic­tion are as var­ied as they are sta­tis­ti­cally plen­ti­ful. The youngest over­dose vic­tim in the county was 19 years old with the old­est be­ing 63 years old. In many such cases, an es­ti­mated 80 per­cent started their drug de­pen­dency with abus­ing pre­scrip­tion med­i­ca­tion.

Over 50 per­cent of in­ci­dents in 2018 in­volved cau­casians and that same per­cent­age in­volved males. The av­er­age age of an over­dose vic­tim is 30.

“Some of the peo­ple we see re­peat­edly don’t ac­tu­ally want help. We don’t know what the trig­ger is in their life that will make them want to get help, but we’re here to stand by them. It’s im­por­tant to stand by some­one with an ad­dic­tion and not treat them like a crim­i­nal,” Hof­mann said.

The most com­mon form of heroin recovered in both 2017 and 2018 was clear cap­sules, and it be­came so per­va­sive, one sub­ject over­dosed twice in two months and an­other three times in four months, he said.

Other vic­tims of opi­oid ad­dic­tion suf­fered an over­dose three months straight from Jan­uary to March of 2018 and an­other four times in four months.

Dur­ing his com­ments, Hof­mann stressed the need to re­move the stigma of the ad­dic­tion over­all. Ac­cord­ing to some in at­ten­dance who lost loved ones to the opi­oid epi­demic, it was the “tough love” ap­proach that led their loved ones to once again seek out drugs.

One in­stance with a 22-year-old fe­male in­volved an over­dose on Aug. 6, 2018, and an­other just 16 days later that was fatal.

While much of the vigil was fo­cused on help­ing those rav­aged by the opi­oid epi­demic, the sher­iff noted the Good Sa­mar­i­tan law is in place to save lives. It states that those who call the au­thor­i­ties for some­one in the midst of an over­dose have le­gal im­mu­nity so first re­spon­ders can save the vic­tim’s life. It also means that the vic­tim will not be charged if they are suf­fer­ing an over­dose.

The at­ten­tion by law en­force­ment will be on the drug dealer to stop the flow of il­le­gal sub­stances at its core. To that end, drug task force mem­bers have used cell phone records, sur veil­lance op­er­a­tions and other in­ves­tiga­tive tools to track down the sources of heroin in the county.

For Thomas Rose of Har­bor View, the evening was as much about ed­u­ca­tion as it was about re­mem­ber­ing loved ones.

“We have an ap­pre­ci­a­tion for [this cam­paign],” Rose said. “We have fam­ily go­ing through this and this a big prob­lem. This is a step in the right di­rec­tion to bring the com­mu­nity to­gether. Peo­ple can look at what’s go­ing on around them and help out in any way they can.”

More in­for­ma­tion on re­sources and part­ners for Queen Anne’s County Goes Pur­ple can be found at www.qac­goe­spur­ple.org.

PHOTO BY KRISTIAN JAIME

Mem­bers of the com­mu­nity hold a mo­ment of si­lence for the vic­tims of opi­oid ad­dic­tion.

PHO­TOS BY KRISTIAN JAIME

The fam­i­lies of those who lost some­one to opi­oid ad­dic­tion were asked to stand to­gether in a mo­ment of re­mem­brance.

Queen Anne’s County Sher­iff Gary Hof­mann ex­plains the im­por­tance of treat­ment to fight the opi­oid epi­demic.

The Rev. Mark Far­nell, senior pas­tor at Kent Is­land United Methodist Church, closes out the evening with a prayer.

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