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Carroll County commissioners highlight children's mental health, addiction prevention

Carroll County commissioners highlight children's mental health, addiction prevention
The Carroll County Board of Commissioners, at their Thursday morning meeting, proclaimed May 5 through May 11 Children’s Mental Health Awareness week in Carroll County, and May as Heroin Still Kills Month. (Screenshot/Carroll County government via YouTube)

Mental health and prevention efforts were on the agenda for the Carroll County Board of Commissioners at their Thursday morning meeting, a session that saw the board proclaim May 5 through May 11 Children’s Mental Health Awareness week in Carroll County, and May as Heroin Still Kills Month.

In reading the board’s first proclamation, Commissioner Ed Rothstein, R-District 5, noted that one in five children has some sort of mental or behavioral health challenge before turning 18, while 70 percent of school age children to not receive treatment for diagnosable mental illness.

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“I believe it’s important that we continue to focus our attention on mental issues and not hide them in the closet,” he said in an interview later in the day. “Whatever we can do to chip away at the stigma that mental health carries, we have that responsibility with our community.”

That need to break through stigma, and the consequences of failing to do so, was also picked up by County Health Officer Ed Singer in his remarks as he appeared with many of his staff at the Carroll County Health Department for the proclamation.

“I think sometimes we are worried about what that looks like for people on the outside,” Singer said, “but if young people who have a mental health diagnosis go untreated, it just compounds the problems as they get older.”

“We want to have those conversations as early as possible, because we know the earlier the interventions, the better the outcomes for our community members,” added Katie Mack director of the E-SMART — Early Screening, decision Making, Assessment, Referral, and Treatment — project of the Carroll County Local Behavioral Health Authority of the Carroll County Health Department. “There’s tons of events that will be held throughout the week and one thing E-SMART in particular is leading efforts on in the library, is children’s mental health matters readings in the community.”

Those events will be family-friendly story times with local officials reading stories that hit on E-SMART’s themes, such as early screening and treatment, as well as offering additional information for families on how E-SMART can help, according to Douglas Lent, communications director for the Maryland Family Network, which is handling marketing for E-SMART.

“A parent who may have needed these services for their children had a hard time knowing where to go,” Lent said in an interview. “What E-SMART provides is a one-stop shop for parents to receive intake to see what services are available.”

The children’s mental health matters readings will kick off from 1 p.m. to 2 p.m. Monday at the Mount Airy branch of the Carroll County Public Library as Sheriff Jim DeWees reads Dr. Seuss’s “My Many Colored Days.” Rothstein will read the same book from 3 p.m. to 4 p.m. Monday in Eldersburg, while Commissioner Stephen Wantz, R-District 1, will read “The Way I Feel,” by Janan Cain, from 1 p.m. to 2 p.m. Wednesday at the Taneytown library branch.

Addressing mental health needs in young children when they arise, Rothstein noted in an interview, is a necessary component of the response to the ongoing opioid addiction epidemic, where mental health and behavioral health issues intertwine.

“They absolutely do dovetail and it is important we recognize that,” Rothstein said. “That we tie together the education approach along with the community approach in dealing with mental illness and other issues that may lead to substance abuse.”

At the commissioner’s meeting to witness the proclamation of May as Heroin Still Kills Month were Carroll County State’s Attorney Brian DeLeonardo and Health Department Substance User Prevention Supervisor Linda Auerback.

Auerback produced the original “Heroin Kills” film two decades ago in response to a rash of heroin overdoses in the community, and was instrumental in the rebooted, “Heroin Still Kills” production that premiered in January, created with funding from DeLeonardo’s office.

“The original ‘Heroin Kills’ ended up in 49 states and 11 countries and is still in our school system,” Auerback said at the meeting. “It has now been replaced in 8th grade health class with the new one.”

Auerback noted that the Health Department will be holding a special screening of the film May 29 at the Finksburg branch of the library.

DeLeonardo, meanwhile, noted that his office will be holding its fifth annual overdose vigil May 21 at Carroll Community College.

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“Lt. Gov. Boyd Rutherford is going to come and serve as our keynote this year,” DeLeonardo said at the meeting. “It’s an incredible time to remember those that we’ve lost, but also give encouragement to those that are in recovery and also raise awareness.”

And as a component of raising awareness in the month of May, DeLeonardo came before the commissioners with an ask.

“I’ve given all of you these ‘Heroin Still Kills’ bumper magnets — I remember way back when the first one came, you would see these everywhere. I am asking for the month May, if the commissioners are willing, to have all county vehicles have these on their vehicles,” he said. “I think it would send a really strong message.”

A motion to place the stickers on county vehicles was made, seconded, and passed unanimously.

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