Carroll County commissioner-delegation meeting focuses on opioid epidemic legislation

Of various bills the Board of County Commissioners proposed to Carroll’s legislative delegation this week, many of them focused on battling the opioid epidemic — a subject Commissioners Dennis Frazier, R-District 3, and Eric Bouchat, R-District 4, have made priorities.

Frazier detailed the bills at Tuesday’s meeting between commissioners and the delegation, which propose: a system for medical professionals to ensure people coming to them for maintenance drugs — like methadone and Suboxone — are actually going to their mandated counseling sessions, a limit for doctors to issue no more than a six-day supply of opiates when necessary, and a mandate that detox personnel get people released from their detox programs to counseling immediately instead of waiting a week or longer.


But Del. Susan Krebs, R-District 5, said after discussing the opioid epidemic “ad nauseum” and passing the Heroin and Opioid Prevention Effort [HOPE] Act passed in 2017, she doesn’t think others will make it through this year.

“For seven days we met with players,” said Krebs. “Doctors treating people with chronic pain, older people with hospice care, came out.”


She said the determination was that opioids should be prescribed by evidence-based guidelines.

“Most [U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] guidelines are three days,” she said. “We do have people that have pain; and these people who get off this medication, they’re going to the street, buying heroin. You’ve got to realize the real world.”

Christopher “Eric” Bouchat, commissioner-elect for District 4, will be sworn in as part of Carroll County’s 61st Board of Commissioners Tuesday, and will be free from his 2014 tax lien.

Krebs said to bring another bill forward would make her and her fellow delegates “look foolish.”

“You have to understand our point of view,” Krebs said.


Commissioner Ed Rothstein, R-District 5, said his concern was about new legislation tacked onto old legislation that isn’t being enforced.

“There are laws now that need be continued to be enforced,” said Rothstein. “You were talking about the doctors; it is their responsibility by law to ensure that they’re doing what they’re supposed to be doing in accordance with the law.”

He said although Frazier’s comments that verification of counseling is lacking, “you don’t ban the dogs, you enforce the leash law.”

Frazier said that there needed to be better enforcement of the law, then, and maybe the proposed bill is a way to start the conversation.

“I just think if this went forward, then we could come up with a way to enforce it while we are writing the legislation for it,” he said.

Bouchat said he didn’t see how the bills would make an impact on the epidemic, when making it harder for people to obtain maintenance drugs will drive them back out to the street for heroin — and followed up on a suggestion he made during his campaign.

“Where’s the state on potentially suing the opioid manufacturers and distributors?” Bouchat asked.

Sen. Justin Ready, R-District 5, said Maryland is not on the list of almost 30 states suing opioid companies.

“I think there is still a lot ongoing,” he said.

Bouchat pressed the subject and said the board wants to get in on the discussion.

“Commissioners Bouchat and Frazier have a passion for bringing these things to the table,” Stephen Wantz, R-District 1, said. “If nothing else, it puts something in your head for something we can do at a local level, just like the Access Carroll 24/7 treatment center.”

Other topics

The commissioners and delegation also talked about repealing the prohibition of gaming events, including raffles, after 1 a.m. on Sunday, with Wantz citing a few volunteer fire companies that would like to be able to make payouts on those days instead of waiting until Monday.

“We’ve got several fire companies that are doing the lottery calendars,” said Wantz, “so they pay based on what the state lottery number is that day.”

Carroll County Opioid Senior Policy Group representatives gathered Monday morning for the unveiling of a sign that will chronicle the numbers of deaths, overdoses and lives saved in Carroll County.

Del. Warren Miller, R-District 9A, said the legislation came around because of trouble in Southern Maryland counties in the past.

“There were gambling events going until 4 in the morning,” he said. “Some racket involved with some organizations, so that’s where some of this came from. That’s what I think created some of these laws — but we are not in Southern Maryland.”

There was also talk about a bill allowing Bingo games to be played in assisted living facilities, which previously did not pass.

“We definitely want to try to do that again,” Ready said, “and see if we can’t get a little more common sense on that.”

In addition to Frazier’s opioid proposals, he asked independently from other BOCC members to propose another bill — one that would allow commissioners to one day prohibit or limit the use of plastic bags on the county level.

“I don’t know how you can look around, see what’s going on in the world today — how you couldn’t give us the power to do this, if a future board wanted to,” Frazier said.

Del. Haven Shoemaker, R-District 5, said he didn’t feel comfortable passing legislation that told people they couldn’t use Styrofoam products, plastic straws, plastic bags or otherwise.

“Well, you’ve got to see what’s happening in the world around you and open your eyes a little bit,” said Frazier.

And the Board of License Commissioners submitted a request for alterations to liquor license applications — including removing the requirement for an applicant to submit a petition of support; making it so on- and off-premise consumption of alcoholic beverages at Class D [beer- and wine- serving] establishments be changed so it is at the discretion of the liquor board; and repealing the requirement Class BC [beer-, wine- and liquor-serving] licensees must provide food with the alcoholic beverages at catered events.

“What they’re saying is, if you buy a bottle of wine in the [tea room] and don’t finish the bottle, you can take it with you, and you may purchase another bottle,” said David Brauning, chairman of the liquor board.

He also said that the last suggestion, for alcoholic beverages at catered events, it would allow for separate caterers to bring food, rather than those that bring alcohol.

“The main point is that food has to be available,” said Brauning.

Overall, Ready said he felt the officials could be hopeful about their ideas.

“[Last session] we got a lot of things through we wanted — but then the House of Delegates doesn’t like ‘this’ bill, Senate doesn’t like ‘this’ bill,” he said. “It takes a couple years to work through the personalities, but now we’ve got some new [people on board].”

And Krebs said the BOCC should ensure they are keeping the delegation in the loop with any and all concerns regarding statewide programs — like school funding, the Kirwan Commission, and viability of recycling in an era where demand is drastically increasing and costs are rising.


The entire meeting is available to watch on the Carroll County government website, www.ccgovernment.carr.org/ccg, in the meeting portal.

Recommended on Baltimore Sun