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Our View: National Recovery Month a time to reflect on progress, work still to be done in Carroll County | COMMENTARY

It’s not easy fighting an epidemic in the middle of a pandemic. But as the Carroll County Health Department is observing National Recovery Month in September, we should recognize both that our county has much to celebrate in terms of progress being made and also that there is much more work to be done.

The August report from the Carroll County Sheriff’s Office shows that 33 members of the community suffered overdoses in August, down from 40 in July and from 34 last August. The year-over-year trend continues to look good. Carroll has seen 261 overdoses through August, according to Sheriff’s Office data. That’s the lowest total through eight months of a year since 2016. That represents a 6.5% decline from a year ago and a 29% decline from 2018.

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There were three overdose deaths in August, the same number as in July and one fewer than last August. So far this year, 29 people have died of overdoses. Fatalities are down 6% year over year and 43% compared to 2018, when 51 people died of overdoses in Carroll through August.

Heroin was deemed the method responsible for 13 of the overdoses while eight were attributed to prescription medications, six to other controlled dangerous substances and one to over-the-counter medication. The results of the other five are pending or unknown.

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The good news is that heroin overdoses are down significantly. There have been 93 heroin overdoes in 2020 while there were 115 at this point last year. More good news: None of the August overdoses have been attributed to the powerful synthetic opioid fentanyl. It has been since July of 2017 that fentanyl hasn’t been responsible for at least one overdose in Carroll County.

When the opioid epidemic was peaking in 2018, overdoses and fatalities increasing steadily, it seemed unlikely Carroll County’s numbers would be falling just as steadily a mere two years later. Multiple Carroll County agencies have contributed to the effort, including law enforcement, the health department, the State’s Attorney’s Office, and numerous nonprofits. Individually or working as a team, they have come up with innovative strategies and have treated addiction as the disease that it is.

Health Officer Ed Singer said last month he had expected overdose numbers to fall even more precipitously this year after making major strides in 2019, but that was before the coronavirus pandemic superseded all else. To everyone’s credit, Carroll leaders haven’t taken their eye off the ball, so to speak, and progress continues to be made.

Still, there have been 261 overdoses, 29 of them fatal, in Carroll over the past eight months. That’s a lot of families struggling, a lot of fathers and sons, mothers and daughters lost.

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The health department is observing National Recovery Month in September with a series of virtual events and community outreach efforts. Stories from their peer recovery support staff, as well as recovery information and resources, will be featured on their website at cchd.maryland.gov, as well as on their Facebook page and the Not in Carroll Facebook page. Staff are also offering brief presentations to small community groups.

Additonally, the local Opioid Prevention Coalition will meet virtually on Wednesday, Sept. 9, from 9 a.m.to 10:30 a.m. The meeting will feature a Recovery Month speaker, Michele Gibbs. For more information or to participate in the virtual meeting, contact Linda Auerback at 410-876-4803 or linda.auerback@maryland.gov.

Most health department recovery support services have been available throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. Learn more about all of the Health Department’s behavioral health services at cchd.maryland.gov or by calling 410-876-4449. Mobile Crisis services are available from 9 a.m. to 11 p.m. daily by calling 410-952-9552.

Marylanders can follow @BeforeIts2Late on Twitter and Facebook.com/BeforeItsTooLateMD for daily updates on statewide Recovery Month 2020 activities and links to resources.

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