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Harford County must take additional steps toward reducing drug overdoses | READER COMMENTARY

Shown are boxes of the overdose-reversal drug Narcan that were being distributed for free earlier this month in Harrisburg, Pa.
Shown are boxes of the overdose-reversal drug Narcan that were being distributed for free earlier this month in Harrisburg, Pa. (Matt Rourke/AP)

Recently, Harford County Executive Barry Glassman commented during his 2020 “State of the County” address, “We will not rest, but continue to shine a light on recovery and expand our efforts to help survivors heal and rebuild their lives." He was referring to a 32% drop in fatal opioid overdose deaths in Harford County in 2019 (“County Executive: Harford on upswing, but some uncertainty remains,” Jan. 15). I have some thoughts on recovery and harm reduction in our county.

I was born and raised in Harford. At 15, I took my first — and at 32, I took my last — opioid here. I’ve managed to stay clean for four years working a program of recovery in this county, but recovery is at the end of a long road. What are we doing to protect drug users along this road? How are we helping drug users access resources that can keep them safe, healthy, and alive? A dead drug user can’t recover. We must meet drug users where they are in their lives and say, “You are part of our community and we want you to live.” Compassion can combat the stigma that leads to isolation, shame and death.

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The 32% reduction in fatal opioid overdose death shows the effectiveness of distributing Narcan, the opioid overdose reversal drug. I commend the county for this step, but, please, don’t stop there. Narcan is one aspect in a harm reduction model that seeks to steer evidence-based, practical and effective drug programs and policies with compassion and common sense.

The Maryland General Assembly has approved syringe services programs (“Supporters push safe injection sites to stem overdose deaths in Maryland, but legal questions unresolved,” Sept. 25). I encourage readers to investigate the successes of these programs. Our county government in connection with the sheriff’s department need to get behind allowing this next step and support its citizens in enacting harm reduction measures. The energy and people power are there. We just need a cleared path to move forward.

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Peter Bogusko, Bel Air

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