Harford to set up 24/7 opioid addiction help line

Harford County has received state funding to establish and operate a round-the-clock dedicated telephone line to help people experiencing opioid addiction.

The funding is part of $170,313 the county received this summer in an effort to reduce overdose deaths as part of the larger effort of the Maryland’s Opioid Operational Command Center, according to the county’s Health Department.

Approximately $140,000 of the grant will be used to establish the telephone help line, with the remainder being used to purchase supplies of naloxone, a drug used to reverse the effects of heroin and other opioid overdoses, county government spokesperson Cindy Mumby said.

Harford County Sheriff’s Office deputies, officers with local municipal police forces and EMS first responders carry naloxone.

“Unfortunately, Harford County law enforcement and other agencies have taken on the role of first responders and identifiers for overdoses and cardiac arrests associated with heroin overdoses,” Edward Hopkins, the county emergency services director, said in a statement released by the Health Department. “This is exactly why it’s imperative that our first responders are equipped with Naloxone.”

“Our goal is to reduce overdose deaths by 20 percent and we hope this is an effort in the right direction,” he said.

The state grant has been provided to Harford County’s Opioid Operational Command Center Senior Policy Group, chaired by the Interim Health Officer Dr. Russell Moy and co-led by Hopkins. In addition to the health and emergency services departments, the group includes the Sheriff’s Office, State’s Attorney’s Office, Community Services, Harford County Public Schools, University of Maryland Upper Chesapeake Health and volunteer fire and first responders.

The group designated the $140,000 to create the 24/7 telephone line for central intake, navigation and recovery.

The telephone line will be staffed by peer recovery specialists, with support from healthcare professionals throughout the County, including Addiction Connections Resources, or ACR, according to a news release.

“This team will serve as a well-publicized, easy-to-reach, central access point committed to assuring on-demand comprehensive screenings, assistance with navigation through the treatment system and follow-up with recovery support care coordination,” Moye said in a statement.

“This project is critical for those who have substance use disorders in Harford County,” the interim health officer continued. “With the support and assistance from ACR, this plan will improve people’s first point of contact with the healthcare system by enhancing early identification and intervention for those with substance use disorders.”

Molly Mraz, spokesperson for the Harford Health Department, said the help line should be operational in early 2018.

She said there are crisis assistance phone numbers available in the county; however, none are being staffed on a 24/7 basis.

“This line will be available for anyone who is seeking treatment or just needs someone to talk with,” Mraz explained. “It’s being set up for people who are in need, who want to find out about getting help.”

The phone line will be operated through a stationary call center, whose location has not yet been selected, Mraz said.

Staff from Addictions Connections Resources, a private contractor, will man the center and be paid through the grant funds, she said.

More information about the line is expected to be released in the coming weeks.

As of this week, the Harford County Sheriff’s Office reports its deputies and other police agencies have responded to 349 opioid overdose calls this year, 67 which have been fatal.

For more information about opioid addiction and getting help, visit the Health department’s website at www.harfordcountyhealth.com

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