The story of opioids and heroin in the county is a complicated entanglement of public organizations and private lives. A new sign outside the Carroll County Health Department will stand as a regularly updated record of the numbers that emerge from the opioid crisis.
When the sign was unveiled Monday morning it recorded 719 overdoses, 55 deaths due to opioids, and 664 lives saved to date in 2018.
“It tells the story of lives lost, but also the story of second chances and recovery,” a news release from the Health Department stated.
The sign was the first of six planned for the county, which will be installed over the next few weeks and then updated monthly.
Health Officer Ed Singer welcomed a group to the unveiling and ribbon-cutting for the sign held Monday morning. “We hope that the signs raise awareness of the opioid crisis, but also of the resources we have to help people get into and stay in recovery,” he said, according to the release.
He was joined by an intersectional group of representatives that make up the Carroll County Opioid Senior Policy Group, “a team of local community agencies and individuals working together to direct opioid crisis funding to local projects,” according to the release.
Sponsors included the Carroll County Board of Commissioners, Carroll Hospital, the Carroll County Sheriff’s Office, the Carroll County State’s Attorney’s Office, Carroll County Public Schools, The Partnership for a Healthier Carroll County and the Westminster Police Department.
Commissioner Stephen Wantz, R-District 1, said, “I’ll tell you this; the collaboration that you see here this morning with everyone that’s represented, that’s what it’s all about and that’s why we’re doing better than anybody across the state in combatting this.”
Added Wantz: “Listen, I hope for a day when there are no signs like this up here. … We’re going to continue to combat this. This is the perfect example of how we’re doing it. I want to thank everyone that’s been a part of this.”
From outside the county, Birch Barron, deputy director of the state Opioid Operational Command Center, visited to express good will for the project.
“The state’s response system is very very based on one fundamental concept, which is that communities know what’s best for their community,” he said. “The team here in Carroll County has really taken a leadership role across the state in both making sure we’re preventing the things that got us into this crisis to begin with, and then we’re also focusing on recovery.”
The sign is unique from those in other jurisdictions because of the inclusion of statistics about lives saved using naloxone and messages of hope and where to go for help, according to the release.
Barron felt this would go toward putting a face on recovery.
“People don’t walk around with a tag that says ‘I’m a success story,’ but we need to start reminding people the work you’re doing is making a difference,” he said.
Carroll County Sheriff Jim DeWees called the numbers “absolutely staggering.”
He highlighted the importance of including the number of lives saved, because “law enforcement, fire and EMS are out every day using naloxone to save lives.”
Sharon McClernan, vice president of Clinical Integration at Carroll Hospital, said “We see the end product of this problem each and every day and we are committed to not only treat the patients at our hospital, but we are committed to screening patients at our emergency department and getting them connected with the treatment and support of Access Carroll, who now has seven-day-a-week access for people who want to seek treatment and recovery, to really working with our physician practices to decrease the number of opioids prescribed to patients.”