The Board of Carroll County Commissioners agreed to divvy out the last $108,000 of 2018 Not in Carroll opiate abuse prevention funds to four projects this week.
The remaining funds will go to the Sources of Strength program, behavioral health resource guide, a pilot Street Smart program at the Boys & Girls Club of Westminster and a vehicle for the Youth Service Bureau.
“What do we do about these middle school age students that have a lot of problems in the home — with problems we didn’t see before — who have two parents who might be substance abuse addicts,” Carroll County Health Officer Ed Singer asked Thursday. “Children might still be in the home, and they are living with this on a day-to-day basis.
“How do we help these kids and keep them from going down that same road,” he asked. “The state and government are putting lots of money towards treatment and interventions for people who are already addicted, but what do we do to keep people from becoming addicted to opioids?”
Singer said that his recommendation was to address behavioral health issues that could lead to opiate use, because it could have positive effects on other struggles that come from similar situations — like alcohol abuse and suicide attempts — as well.
“Carroll County has the highest rate per 100,000 of attempted suicides between ages 5 and 17 in Maryland, [more than] Baltimore City and others,” Singer told commissioners. “Highest rate of suicide attempts that aren't completed.”
Commissioner Doug Howard, R-District 5, said he was shocked by the information.
“Why would that be higher here than other places?” he asked. “Don't we need to know? I mean this seems, like, kind of, rather alarming.”
Singer said there could be various reasons for that, including that Carroll might be “better at identifying it than other jurisdictions,” and that there might be high pressure on Carroll’s youth.
But Carroll County has been at the top or near the top of the list for the past five years.
“The focus of this is supposed to be on opioids,” Singer said, “but I do think you have to look at the whole behavioral health issue. It’s not one issue.”
Sources of Strength
To address the multi-faceted concern that is the opiate epidemic, the BOCC approved $43,000 of Not in Carroll funding to support the Sources of Strength program. Singer said the goal was to help expand it across the county’s public middle schools.
Sources of Strength is a Carroll County Public School and Health Department program that develops relationships among students and adults in order to help at-risk youth before opportunities for drug abuse arise.
“The Sources of Strength program could help intervene by giving kids who do not have positive mentorship in their own homes some kind of sponsored mentorship with someone they can get advice from,” suggested Singer, “[someone] that can be a positive role model for them.”
Behavioral health resource guides
The BOCC also approved $15,000 for the printing of more behavioral health resource guides, which have been developed by the Partnership for a Healthier Carroll County and community partners.
It “is widely utilized by emergency medical services, law enforcement, providers, CCPS and other community partners,” a county release states.
Boys & Girls Club
Bonnae Meshulam, executive director of the Boys & Girls Club of Westminster, said she wanted to provide programs at the center to help teens as well — so the BOCC awarded $25,000 of Not in Carroll funding for its pilot Street Smart program.
The Street Smart program would get adult volunteers to spend time with the teens at the center to learn about what drives the common feeling of hopelessness in a safe space, and promote healthy, positive lifestyles.
“I’ve never seen so many kids delusional about hope for their future, for what’s going on in their lives,” said Meshulam. “At least with the Boys & Girls Club we have so many adult mentors that are with the kids every day, and with doing this particular program — just with the teens in the small groups — we learn a lot about what’s going on in their lives.
“I’ve heard so much talk about suicide with our teens starting at a young age,” she said. “I'm floored about it, and I think we have to move quickly on it. It has to do with drugs at home, family lives. When they don't have hope for the future, they don't think they’re worth anything.”
Youth Service Bureau
The last $25,000 of Carroll’s 2018 opiate prevention funds was awarded to the Youth Service Bureau to purchase a new vehicle.
The vehicle will be used by the YSB Assertive Community Treatment team to “provide comprehensive, recovery-oriented, mental health/substance use treatment to individuals with severe and persistent mental illness,” the county release states.
YSB provides for those struggling with active addictions and mental illness, rather than taking the same preventative approach as the other programs proposed Thursday.
“This program treats the most challenging [conditions], for the mentally ill and those with significant substance use,” said CCYSB Executive Director Lynn Davis. “This programs helps people get out of hospitals, detention centers, helps them in recovery — to stabilize and to get to a life that they consider worth living.”
Commissioner Dennis Frazier, R-District 3, said in a county release he felt the combination of approaches would be helpful in the ongoing fight against opiates.
“I think these four programs represent an excellent multi-tiered strategy to expand our tools for fighting opioid addiction in Carroll County,” he stated. “This should give us more information about which types of ‘out-of-the-box’ programs might be the most successful in the future.”