Carroll County Times Opinion

Tomlinson: Kudos to Carroll for progress made on opioids; let’s make sure trend continues

Carroll County witnessed a decrease in opioid-related deaths and nonfatal overdoses compared to last year. When comparing the first six months of 2018 to the first six months of 2019, heroin-related deaths in Carroll went down from 7 to 4, fentanyl-related deaths dropped from 26 to 9, and nonfatal overdoses decreased from 293 to 194.

Although these numbers are a sign that Carroll County is heading in the right direction, it is not time for us to relax and let our guard down. Carroll County’s Health Officer Ed Singer said it best last month when he told the Carroll County Times, “I think it’s a good sign … but I am certainly not ready to claim victory and move on.”


A decrease of 60% in opioid-related deaths and a decrease of 34% in nonfatal overdoses in such a short span would not have been possible without the hard work done by many including our elected officials, State’s Attorney’s Office, County Health Department, local nonprofit organizations, Carroll Hospital Center, Sheriff’s Office, business community, Carroll County Public Schools, and Carroll’s deeply-concerned citizens. Commissioner Ed Rothstein, R-District 5, recently told me, “Success in attacking this evil is dependent on the partnership between all of us within the community.”

On the heels of this great news, how will Carroll County keep the momentum going and make sure that this trend continues? The initiatives put forth by all of those leading the fight against the opioid epidemic are clearly working, but what new strategies and approaches is our community working on and planning to execute next?


Law enforcement is a key component in this war. The Board of County Commissioners recently gave the State’s Attorney’s Office the green light to continue participating in the Maryland Criminal Intelligence Network (MCIN), a statewide crime data-sharing system created by Gov. Hogan. State’s Attorney Brian DeLeonardo was able to get Carroll County the data analysis software at no cost, something only two other jurisdictions in Maryland were able to obtain. “Serving as chair of the Governor’s Gangs and Violent Criminal Networks Council, this has been an important step in proactively identifying organizations operating throughout jurisdictions and jointly working to shut them down,” remarked DeLeonardo. Additionally, the commissioners also approved funding for the State’s Attorney’s Office to hire a crime data analyst who is now putting the MCIN software to work and helping generate intelligence that will allow law enforcement to clamp down on local opioid dealers.

Education and prevention are the first two hurdles to clear when combating this epidemic. In Fiscal Year 2019, Carroll’s Commissioners started “Not in Carroll” to fund innovative ideas and programs related to drug treatment, prevention, prosecution, and enforcement. For FY20, the Commissioners were able to fund “Not in Carroll” once again. With middle school likely being the first point in a child’s life when he or she will encounter the opportunity to use drugs, the commissioners are using the funding from “Not in Carroll” for an after-school program to support at-risk middle school students. The pilot program will operate two days a week at North Carroll Middle School and Northwest Middle, with plans to expand and provide academic support, mentoring, and drug prevention.

On the treatment front of the battle, Carroll County government’s Recovery Support Services (RSS) program, managed by Mountain Manor Treatment Centers, offers crisis beds to addicts for a maximum of 10 days. While staying at its Sykesville facility, each individual receives a mental health assessment and evaluation and works with staff to develop a unique service and discharge plan. Unfortunately, RSS’s crisis beds are at maximum capacity. For any family or friend who has tried to help a loved one fight addiction, every second matters when it comes to getting an addict into treatment. Thanks to the efforts of the commissioners and Health Department, the RSS will soon be increasing its number of beds. These extra beds will allow those in need to get in the door sooner and get on the road to recovery.

Further, the State’s Attorney’s Overdose Response Team continues to work with individuals who have had multiple overdoses, some of whom are in the criminal justice system and some of whom are not. In 2019 alone, this remarkable team has been able to get 46 men and women into treatment.

Nonprofit organizations also play an important role in Carroll’s County’s efforts to suppress the spread of opioid abuse. After losing her 18-year-old son to heroin in 2014, Tammy Lofink founded Rising Above Addiction (RAA). Treatment can be a costly endeavor and often holds back individuals from getting the help they need. Lofink’s nonprofit raises money to provide addicts with financial assistance, allowing them to get into treatment quickly. RAA operates a sober home for women in Westminster called “Reclaiming my Life.” Fortunately yet unfortunately, the house is at full occupancy so Lofink will soon be opening a second sober home for women. In order to continue providing these services, RAA is hosting the Robert D. Kirkland Memorial Golf Classic on Aug. 19 with proceeds benefiting a scholarship, the drug court program, and of course, RAA. For more information, visit

The only way for Carroll County to continue fighting this devastating epidemic is for these multiple private and public agencies and organizations to continue building partnerships and to attack the problem from all sides. Although the recent numbers surrounding opioid-related deaths and nonfatal overdoses are cause for hope, it is not time to slow down. Instead, our county needs to put the pedal to the metal and continue to come up with new solutions.

“All of us need to step up and not take the easy way out by putting our heads in the sand,” said Rothstein. “Carroll County is a model of community engagement and I am encouraged that by working together, we will fight this evil head on.”

Christopher Tomlinson, a member of the Carroll County Republican Central Committee, writes from Melrose. Email him at