The number of opioid overdoses in the county have continued to decrease with a 25% decline in comparison to 2018.
Since the start of 2019 until June 25, 433 overdoses — with 71 fatalities — have occurred with majority of the incidents taking place in the northern part of the county, according to a report by the Anne Arundel Police and the county health department.
An incorporation of cross agency collaboration from offering trainings on Narcan, using Safe Stations, removing drugs from the community, and distributing fentanyl strips all contribute to the decrease of overdoses that occur in the county, said Jennifer Corbin, director of the crisis response of the county’s Mental Health Agency.
“It is a team effort over the past two years to come together and help the citizens of Anne Arundel County,” Corbin said.
So far, the Anne Arundel Police Department has administered Narcan 39 times, five of those times have occurred in Annapolis, according to the police department report. Since the beginning of the year, the Anne Arundel Fire Department has administered Narcan 655 times on 379 different incidents, fire officials said.
Fentanyl, a synthetic opioid that is cheaper to make than heroin but is much more potent, has the highest amount of substance abuse, according to the report.
State department health officials purchased 66,000 fentanyl strips that were to be distributed to county health departments and other organizations including the city’s Office of Emergency Management. These strips can detect whether drugs like heroin or cocaine have been mixed with fentanyl.
The strips, packaged in lime green bags, have directions on the back to instruct someone on how to properly measure whether or not the drugs have traces of fentanyl.
In order to reach the targeted group of people, the city’s Office of Emergency Management launched a pilot program in late June to distribute 1,500 strips with the hopes of reaching the people who need it most.
Once someone has tested to see if the drug is contaminated, precautionary steps for methods of using the drug or remaining in the presence of someone who has Narcan could be used, said Kevin Simmons, the acting director of the Office of Emergency Management.
The use of the fentanyl strips could also help direct people to recovery, he said.
“It is our hope that if one cares enough and is suffering from substance abuse — you care enough to test your drug. The next step is to do some recovery,” Simmons said.
So far, the pilot program has a representative from the office visit areas where there is high concentration of overdoses. Data will then be collected and reevaluated for what the agency can do next, Simmons said. The employee is temporarily employed with a contract that is funded through a grant.
He also suggested the office may work with other organizations like the Naptown Anti-Dope Movement or Your Life Matters to help distribute the strips and increase the network of people with addiction.
Another initiative, the Maryland Mobile Wellness program, began by the Anne Arundel Department of Health in early April. The RV, available on Tuesdays and Fridays, is staffed with a registered nurse practitioner, nurse and peer support specialist.
So far 53 people have visited the vehicle to use the services and can receive resources and recommendations, and in some instances prescriptions for buprenorphine, medication-assisted treatment used to help people quit using heroin or misusing opiates, according to a health department spokeswoman.
“The well mobile provides non-judgement willingness to meet the individual where they are,” said Tracy Schulden, the deputy director for the Behavioral Health Bureau in the county’s health department.
“It is more of a non-traditional threshold to engage with individuals who are not necessarily thinking about recovery," she said.
The RV is currently stationed at the Arundel House of Hope in Glen Burnie but they are looking for additional ways to offer support in south county or Annapolis, Schulden said.
Safe Stations have also had a steady number of about 100 people a month use the stations, said Corbin.
People will either go to fire stations for help or call the Anne Arundel County Mental Health Agency’s warm line to get assistance in the community instead because people are “showing initiative and want help," she said.
In particular, the community awareness is increasing as more people are showing up who are first time participants for the safe stations, Corbin said.
“I think it is a network of individuals who have the information to give out,” she said. “They may have gotten information from a peer... it could be the recovery community.”