Shine a Light! [Editorial]

The Aegis

Some good news came out of the recent public CompStat meeting hosted by the Harford County Sheriff’s Office: There’s been a slight decrease in the number of opioid-related deaths and non-fatal overdoses this year.

As of Sept. 2, there were 54 fatal overdoses and 244 non-fatal overdoses reported to law enforcement, 300 total compared to 61 fatalities and 253 non-fatal overdoses, 314 total, during the same period, reported Capt. Michael Crabbs, the new commander of the Harford County Narcotics Task Force.

The numbers work out to an 8.2 percent drop in fatal overdoses and a 3.5 percent drop in non-fatals, according to Sheriff’s Office data.

Opioid-related overdoses trending down should be taken as a positive sign that the exhaustive efforts by the county government, law enforcement, the Harford County Health Department, Harford County Public Schools, Aberdeen Proving Ground, Upper Chesapeake Health and scores of community organizations could finally be slowing the epidemic that has plagued our county for the past half-dozen years.

Still, the numbers of overdoses tell only part of the story, as we will never say conclusively how many people are hooked on heroin or some other drug, legal or not, or on alcohol for that matter. Usually, it’s only the deaths that make the news pages, sometimes, and of course the obituaries.

The Sheriff’s Office began tallying overdose calls placed through 911 in 2015, when 27 fatal overdoses were reported. The number doubled in 2016 and reached 81 last year.

There were 101 deaths in Harford County in 2017 from overdoses on all drugs and alcohol, and there were 30 fatal drug and alcohol overdoses in the first quarter of 2018, according to Joe Ryan, manager of the county’s Office of Drug Control Policy, who cited data from The Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, a ninefold increase from 2000.

We have asked on many occasions that our Aegis readers let the numbers sink in, because addictions of any form are nothing to trifle with, and there is help available to everyone, regardless of their income situation, who needs and wants it.

Harford County has joined voices nationwide this September to recognize Recovery Month with purple lights on buildings countywide and a series of free events for citizens of all ages.

Represented by the color purple, National Recovery Month shines a light on recovery and raises awareness and understanding of mental health and substance use disorders.

On the opposite side of The Aegis opinion page each Friday this month, as well as on www.theaegis.com, we are featuring commentaries provided by the county Health Department about addictions and recovery.

We think it excellent that so much effort has been made in our county, and not just this month, of course, to encourage folks with substance abuse problems to the path toward recovery. We also recognize it’s not an easy path to negotiate, one with numerous obstacles and, for so many, it’s a journey on the edge of a precipice too eagerly awaiting a fall.

"Recovery Month is something that should be acknowledged and celebrated," Deputy County Health Officer Marcy Austin said last month. "We appreciate our partnerships with local agencies and businesses, and we are proud to recognize those who are in recovery. They inspire others with the message that recovery is possible and resources are available to make it possible."

A number of programs and events are still taking place this month to Shine a Light on Recovery. We urge you and yours to take advantage of these programs, and the many programs provided to Harford County residents all year round to help us turn the tide against addictions of all forms and to help those near and dear find peace through recovery.

For more information about Recovery Month activities in Harford County, visit www.harfordcountymd.gov/odcp or contact the Harford County Office of Drug Control Policy at 410-638-3333.

If you need help, we urge you to call the Health Department at 410-877-2340 or visit www.drugfree.org.

“Prevention, treatment and recovery are year-round efforts, but National Recovery Month is an opportunity for Harford County to come together to support those in recovery and light a path for those still in darkness,” Harford County Executive Barry Glassman said in a recent statement. “I encourage anyone whose life has been touched by addiction, and all citizens, to join us this September by participating in events and shining a light for recovery.”

avought@theaegis.com

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