It’s an effort to help fight the heroin and opioid crisis.
Frederick, Md (KM). When Frederick County Public Schools open on Tuesday, September 5th, each one will have supplies of Narcan, the overdose reversal drug. That announcement was made Thursday morning by County Executive Jan Gardner during her public information briefing. “This is for the safety of our students, faculty, and staff, and also for everyone who enters our schools,” she said.
Gardner said it’s one of many tools the county is using to fight the heroin and opioid epidemic in the country. On March 1st, 2017, Maryland Governor Larry Hogan signed an executive order declaring the opioid crisis a state of emergency, and promised to commit $50-million over the next five years on enforcement, prevention and treatment.
During her public information briefing on Thursday, County Executive Gardner presented some sobering statistics on the heroin and opioid crisis in Frederick County.. “As of Monday of this week, the number of overdoses from heroin or opioids–and, again, this is for this calendar year–total 216. 31 of those overdoses have been fatal,” she said.
Gardner said the School System and the Health Department have been working over the years to provide general messages about the dangers of drug, alcohol and tobacco use. “We are also providing heroin and opioid awareness information to all incoming freshmen in Frederick County when they attend their high school orientation in a couple of weeks,” she said, emphasizing that program is being administered by the School System.
In addition, Gardner says, substance abuse education will be part of the public school curriculum next year. “With the 2018-19 school year, a year from now, students in third grade and up through high school will learn about awareness and prevention in the classroom with age-appropriate lessons,” she said.
Also at the public information briefing, Health Officer Dr. Barbara Brookmyer said her agency is still looking at adding a syringe services program in Frederick County, often referred to as needle exchanges. She said it would help curb the spread of HIV and Hepatitis-C through the use of dirty needles. “And that would first and foremost be the collection, and safe disposal of used syringes; the distribution of sterile equipment, HIV and Hepatitis-C education; and it also may include testing; the Naloxone or Narcan education; and the linkage to needed services,” Dr. Brookmyer said.
No decision has been made on whether to put such a program in place.
Gardner said she wants to remind citizens they can be protected from arrest and prosecution under the Maryland Good Samaritan Law if they take action when another person is suffering from an overdose. “If you’re trying to assist somebody whose suffering from an overdose, even if there’s drugs present or paraphernalia present, you can call 911 without the risk of getting in trouble with the law,”: she says. “It’s also important to note that a person who witnesses a medical emergency, and does nothing, does not help, is not protected by the law.”
Even though Frederick County has a lot of programs to help prevent and treat overdoses, Gardner acknowledges some things are lacking. “We do not have a de-tox center here in Frederick County, and that is important so people can safely come down from a high. It does require medical assistance. And we need to expand the number of beds available for treatment,” she said.
Two weeks ago, President Trump declare the opioid crisis a national emergency. But Gardner said it’s uncertain how this will affect resources to the state and local levels. “What we do know is that it’s never too late for someone battling heroin to get help,” she says.
By Kevin McManus