Hampstead to hold opioid meeting with prescribers

Hampstead's town hall has played host to numerous public meetings on the topic of drugs and addiction over the past few years, but the meeting scheduled there for 7 p.m. Tuesday will be one of a kind. The North Carroll Opioids Provider meeting will bring together the law enforcement, recovery and community together along with some voices that are seldom heard, those of the physicians who prescribe opioids in their practice, and the pharmacists that dispense them.

"We want to encourage a number of providers from the area to have a chance to talk to us rather than being told what we think we should do," said Hampstead Chief of Police Ken Meekins, who serves on a number of committees that review overdose deaths in Carroll. "A lot of those don't have the providers be a part of that conversation and I think that has been the missing piece."


Chief Ken Meekins, of the Hampstead Police Department, is frustrated. He's frustrated that after so much effort, after so many years of spreading the word, making arrests, informing the public, people are still dying from drug overdoses in his community.

In March, Meekins circulated a letter articulating his frustration with the problem of opioid addiction and related deaths and calling on the community to help — 22 people died in Carroll County due to a heroin-related overdose in 2015 749 people statewide, and Meekins noted in March that many of those using heroin first became addicted to prescription opioid pain medications. Whether obtained legally or illicitly, prescription pain drugs seem to have played a role and Meekins hopes to hear from physicians about how they think these drugs can best be kept out of the hands of those that would misuse them.

One of the people who read Meekins' March letter was Richard Salkin, a group counselor who works with people suffering from substance use disorders at the North Carroll Counseling Center in Hampstead. Inspired, he reached out to Meekins and the two began brainstorming a different type of town hall meeting that could help the community cover new ground.

As a talk therapist, Salkin often has to confront his limited knowledge of medical treatment when counseling people who are struggling to get free of heroin addiction.

"I worry that I am giving misinformation, because I don't have any medical training. A lot of times I just want to be able to refer to a doctor, or an expert," Salkin said. "It's so hard to get a face-to-face discussion with a doctor unless you are a patient."

Deaths due to heroin and opioid drug poisoning continue to rise throughout most of Maryland, but Carroll County is one of the few counties to show a slight decline in such deaths during the first six months of 2016.

Sometimes Salkin sees clients who are such active heroin users that he fears they are at high risk of a fatal overdose if they do not see a physician that can detoxify them and perhaps offer them one of the three drugs approved to treat opioid addiction: methadone, buprenorphine or naltrexone. Sometimes his clients tell him they are buying buprenorphine on the street because they cannot find or afford a doctor to prescribe it and monitor them.

In either case, Salkin said, he hopes getting doctors to come out to the meeting will help him and other therapists better understand how to refer clients into treatment quickly when getting treatment quickly is a matter of life and death — the basic premise is to unite the medical community with the other players in the game, he said.

"A lot of times what I've wanted to do is talk to them face to face and ask, 'How do you want me to do this?'" Salkin said. "What is the standard, appropriate procedure for me to get someone who is in immediate danger into some kind of emergency medical treatment?"

It's not clear just how many providers will turn out, Meekins said, but it's a start.


"This is uncharted territory as far as I am concerned and I have asked a number of people to come and take part," Meekins said. "I have been preaching enough. I just want to get in there and learn why they are doing what they are doing."



If you go

What: North Carroll Opioids Providers meeting


When: 7 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 27

Where: Hampstead town hall, 1034 S. Carroll St., Hampstead

Cost: Free