On Wednesday evening, Wesley Freedom United Methodist Church will host the first of what organizers hope will become quarterly community forums on dealing with addiction.
“We feel one of the most important elements of that is some educational opportunities,” said Sharon Feldman, director of community life at the Eldersburg church. “Educating people on what the drug issues are, that’s such a big thing in our county right now, and especially the four losses we just had since Wednesday of last week.”
Feldman was referring to four fatal drug overdoses that took place in Carroll County from Jan. 3 through Jan. 5, which prompted the Carroll County Health Department to issue a special public health alert.
The free event will begin at 7 p.m. Jan. 10 and will feature a series of speakers followed by a question-and-answer period. It is presented in cooperation with the nonprofit Rising Above Addiction, as well as Maryland Addiction Recovery Center.
“We don’t want to make it this long, drawn-out thing, the speakers will be max, five minutes each,” said Tammy Lofink, founder of Rising Above Addiction. “We want to try to have the last half hour just to be able to help people.”
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Lofink — who founded Rising Above Addiction in 2015, after losing her son to an overdose, to help get people into drug treatment — will be one of the speakers. Carroll County Sheriff Jim DeWees will be another, along with Peter Musser, a psychologist and member of the Wesley Freedom UMC.
“He is going to talk a little about the dynamics of getting the whole family the help that they need,” Feldman said.
Also speaking and answering community questions will be Zach Snitzer, director of business development at Maryland Addiction Recovery Center in Baltimore County. It’s a long-term — six to 12 months — community care facility, he said, a place that can help bridge people back into the community after more immediate detox in a 30-day treatment facility.
Understanding the difference between the types of treatment facilities and other resources available, is a larger part of what Snitzer hopes to address.
“I am going to talk about treatment as a whole, what family members should be doing when family members come to them in crisis and how to make sure they are getting quality resources,” he said. “There may be three to four treatment options, but not every one will be right for that person.”
It was providing that sort of information and help to others that got Lofink interested in putting this event together. As both a parent who has lost a child to addiction and someone involved in helping families get loved ones into treatment, she said, it’s important to help people understand where to turn during a crisis.
“I still have parents calling me almost daily and they don’t know what to do or who to call or where they should go as far as where should they send their child, or their family member,” Lofink said. “What are the best places? What are the steps?”
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Snitzer, meanwhile, who is in recovery for addiction himself, said he has been impressed with Carroll County both personally and professionally.
“I am somewhat jealous in terms of the forward thinking and the way that Carroll County, as a county, has come forward to tackle this,” he said. “I put it to Tammy, ‘We would to do some free educational support in the county because we appreciate the stuff the county is doing.’ ”
Lofink is connected with Wesley Freedom UMC, Feldman said, and the church has supported Rising Above Addiction since its creation.
But Feldman said that the timing was right for this type of educational event, as the church is in the process of launching a new community outreach program.
“One of the things that we are trying to do is to develop and set up a family resources center in South Carroll,” she said. “A center that can aid people and support families that are in crisis, no matter what that crisis might be. Whether it’s mental health, whether it’s drug addiction, whether it is maybe a child has lost a parent and they need someone to do group counseling.”
But while there are many resources in Carroll County for these issues, Feldman said it can be hard to find them in one place in the South Carroll area.
“I have to give them a phone number,” she said. “I have to send them to Westminster.”
Wednesday’s forum is the first in what Feldman hopes will be more educational events on many topics to be hosted at the church, as well as the first of four quarterly meetings for the community on the topic of addiction.
“I know if I would have had those resources and I knew which calls to make, I could have navigated through much easier and, I think, possibly had a different outcome,” she said. “I really believe that.”