More than 200 people attended a public health roundtable on drug overdoses in Cecil County Friday; more than three times that number died by overdosing on drugs in Maryland last year.
In 2012, Maryland reported that 761 people died of drug and alcohol-related overdoses. Of that, 23 were in Cecil County.
“One death is too many," Ken Collins, director of addiction services for the Cecil County Health Department, said at the roundtable. "These are our neighbors; these are our kids."
Cecil County has the second highest fatal drug overdose rate among jurisdictions statewide, County Executive Tari Moore said, after Baltimore City.
"Frankly, I was shocked," Moore said. Recently, she added, Cecil County applied for a designation to make it eligible for funding to handle drug-related issues.
"We have a lot of life-saving work" that has been done in Maryland, Gov. Martin O'Malley said at the discussion. He noted that he was very familiar with addiction given his background as Mayor of Baltimore City from 1999 to 2007, where overdose deaths went from 312 in 1999 to 106 in 2008.
"There are lessons that we've learned," O'Malley said, adding that he would like to "regain that life-saving momentum."
He cited the "Safe Streets" initiative, which led to a 60-percent reduction in violent crime in Annapolis through collaboration among state, county, community and municipal agencies.
In Cecil County, the governor asked what could be done to reverse the trend of fatal overdoses.
Collins presented recommendations to curb the trend of increasing drug overdose deaths through programs such as medication-assisted treatment and overdose rescue training. After the plan was presented, O'Malley asked: "Where are the holes?"
Stephanie Garrity, Cecil County Health Officer, said there were no detoxification centers in Cecil County, a comment that was met with applause.
Residential treatment centers were also requested by citizens, as well as youth education and prevention programs.
"Cecil County as a whole needs to do a far better job of capturing our young people early on with good education and the adolescents who maybe have just started to dabble...getting to them," Garrity said.
In particular, heroin was a concern to health officials.
"People who may have become addicted to opioid medicines...are switching over to heroin, and it can be deadly," Joshua Sharfstein, M.D., secretary of the Maryland Department of Mental Health and Hygiene, said at the roundtable.
In 2012, the state saw a 54-percent spike in heroin-related deaths. "That was really a wake-up call for us," Sharfstein said. Cecil County had 10 heroin-related deaths in 2012.
How do you think Cecil County can kick its drug problem? Tell us in the comments!