Frederick’s Mayor, Aldermen Get Update On Opioid Crisis

They hear about the need for a local detox center.


Frederick, Md (KM). A workshop dedicated to the opioid crisis was held at Frederick City Hall on Wednesday. It was an opportunity for the Mayor and the Board of Aldermen to discuss the current situation in the city, and the strategies to combat the problem, according to an executive summary about the workshop.

Elected officials heard some sobering statistics on the number of overdoses so far this year. “81 total overdoses; 66 non-fatal, and 14 fatal, ” says Mark Burack, the Heroin Coordinator with Frederick Police. He said those figures are as of June 30th, 2018. He says it’s a 35% increase from last year. “Last year,  totals were 129 overdoses; 111 non-fatal overdoses and 18 fatal overdoses.”

During the presentation, health officials told city elected officials of the need for more resources to assist those with addiction problems get clean. Santina Prather, the Adult Recovery Services Manager for the Frederick County Health Department, says there’s a shortage of community-based outreach coordinators to help those individuals with substance abuse problems to get the treatment they need. She says there’s only one outreach coordinator at Frederick Memorial Hospital. “I believe personally and just by  feedback from the staff that if we had more individuals at the hospital–she’s only working our traditional daytime hours–if we had people during the evenings and weekends, that we could have been more effective,” she said.

Prather said there are community-based outreach coordinators at the Adult Detention Center, Parole and Probation and the Drug Treatment Court. “All of these programs have been very successful out of the gate. But there’s definitely a need for more individuals. All of the staff work from nine to five hours. What’s we’re dealing with does not take place during that time frame. We definitely need more people, and we need the manpower so we can follow up,” she says.

Police Chief Ed Hargis suggested mobile community outreach coordinators. “If an officer comes across somebody on the street that isn’t overdosing, but comes up to the officer in general conversation and says ‘I’m ready for recovery.’ For the officer to call the person that is mobile to come out and make contact with that individual,” he says.

Health care professionals say the biggest need in the Frederick community is a local detox center, which would get an addict clean so they can begin their recovery and keep away from opioids. Prather says such a facility could make a big difference. “That window, when someone is ready and beginning to enter treatment, is so narrow,” she said. “If we don’t have that availability, that we try to piecemeal a plan which could be over the weekend, try to get to a couple of meetings, where are you going to eat, where are going to sleep, and we might lose them by Monday.”

Lacy Kimble, whose a community outreach coordinator and a former heroin addict, says if there’s nothing for these patients, they;’re lost. “If when someone came to me throughout the day, and said ‘I’m ready to go,’ but I have to look at them and tell them  ‘sorry, there’s a three to four week wait at all the local rehabs, and your insurance won’t pay for anything else,’ they don’t come back the next week,” she said.

Mike Shilling is also a community outreach coordinator at Frederick Community Action Agency, who had a cocaine and alcohol problem for many years. He said it’s not easy finding detox centers for a lot of the people he sees. “They can’t get into here because they need detox first. Now there are some places I can get ’em into quick if I’m lucky. But the majority they can’t come here because it’s a risk for our program. We can’t facilitate that for them,” he said.

County Executive Jan Gardner has set aside $500,000 as “seed money” for setting up a detox center. Cynthia Terl, who chairs the health Improvement Priority Workshop, said an effort will begi soon  to push hard for a detox center. “We’re going to be asking the city and the county to really drill down and take a look at the list of properties that are owned and available that we could then look at to see if they are viable buildings,” she says.

“The staffing for that facility must be medical. It’s not just clinical. So you’re going to have to have a physician, a nurse practicioner, RN’s, that level of care,” says Terl.


By Kevin McManus