Community forums to address opioid and heroin addiction crisis

PRINCESS ANNE — A highly-recommended awareness program about the scourge of heroin and opioid addiction is scheduled to take place in Somerset County next week with presentations at both public high schools.

Modeled after the Anne Arundel County program titled “Not My Child,” it will include information from local participants in various disciplines from health care to law enforcement. There will also be a model bedroom on display that parents can inspect to see if they can identify signs of drug abuse or locate potential contraband stashed in an everyday home situation.

The first community substance abuse presentation starts with free food and beverages at 5:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 20 at Crisfield High School. The forum starts at 6:15 and runs through 7:45. Students will have a special session at 1:30 that day as well.

In Princess Anne, Washington High School is the host on Wednesday, Feb. 21, again with food at 5:30 followed by presentations at 6:15. For students, there will be morning and afternoon sessions scheduled at 8:30 and 1:15.

Karen Brimer, family services coordinator for Circuit Court and chair of the Somerset County Local Management Board, organized these public forums after Commissioner President Randy Laird received a letter from Anne Arundel County Executive Steven Schuh endorsing the Not My Child program.

But instead of having the Anne Arundel team travel here, except for the moderator and a parent of a child who died from an overdose, Mrs. Brimer tapped local participants.

“This letter sparked response from all providers in Somerset County,” she said. “It’s unbelievable how people have come together to address the heroin and opioid crisis.”

Mrs. Brimer said however that despite making contact with local parents of children who died from an overdose, “it was just too painful” for them to take part so that slot will be filled by someone from Anne Arundel County whose mission is to carry on the legacy of her son.

Not My Child is a community conversation regarding the prevalent use of illegal and even legal substances like prescription drugs. It focuses on the facts regarding “gateway” drugs, and how prescription opioid misuse can lead to someone seeking to use heroin.

The panelists will include State’s Attorney Wess Garner, local police chiefs, EMTs, Health Department and Board of Education representatives, and a recovering addict. Students will hear from Dr. Michael Adkins of McCready Health, and Dr. Mary Fleury will take part during the evening programs.

Coming from Harford County is “a room on wheels” that looks like a child’s bedroom that parents can walk through and try to find paraphernalia or other indicators of substance abuse.

To further promote the effort to educate young people about the addictions problem, the Local Management Board is writing a grant to hire a coordinator of addictions prevention that would assist with awareness and prevention programs especially in the schools. Mrs. Brimer said the State’s Attorney’s Office would make space available for that person if the grant is successful.

Another offshoot of this initiative is being arranged by Circuit Court Judge Daniel W. Powell and District Court Judge Paula Price who are preparing to launch a Somerset County Recovery Court for up to 50 defendants. If someone is found guilty of a drug offense but shows promise that they can be helped, the sentence will be deferred so probation can be tailored to promote recovery.

“There will be sanctions, but it won’t be as punitive,” Mrs. Brimer said. “It will be to try and get them on the right track.”

“Maybe something will work,” said County Commissioner Rex Simpkins, because in the last 45 years this war on drugs “is worse now than I think it’s ever been.” Mrs. Brimer said the support of Gov. Larry Hogan declaring addiction a crisis in Maryland “doesn’t hurt” because it releases funding for these kinds of programs that are free to the public.

For more information contact Mrs. Brimer at 410-621-7582 or visit Somerset County Recovery & Re-entry Center on Facebook. The Anne Arundel County video titled “Not My Child” is available on Arundel TV through YouTube or click the link Not My Child.

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