Community Leaders Tackle Drug Overdose Deaths In Wicomico - 47 ABC - Delmarva's Choice

Community Leaders Tackle Drug Overdose Deaths In Wicomico

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WICOMICO Co., Md. - Deaths in Wicomico County are on the rise, and community leaders are scrambling to find solutions. Wednesday, a roundtable discussion was held at Wor-Wic Community College to get the ball rolling on an action plan.

Two years ago, a prescription drug task force was formed because it was evident prescription drug abuse was a problem. And now, the growing number of drug related deaths in the area is troubling.

"The data is showing it's an epidemic right now. We need to jump on it," Jim Freeman said.

Of the twenty-three Maryland counties and Baltimore City, Wicomico ranks in the top five when it comes to drug overdose rates. From 2011 to 2012, the number of overdose deaths jumped from eleven to twenty-one.

"We don't want to lose anyone. I've been very proud to say that over the last several years, Wicomico County has been one of the top 100 communities in the nation for raising young people. It shows the heart of the community when we put our priorities in the right place. Then when we find a statistic that shows such a serious problem with drug overdoses, we realize the picture is not complete. We have a serious issue that as a community, we're going to have to come together to resolve," Wicomico County Executive Rick Pollitt said.

It appears prescription drugs and heroin are at the heart of the issue.

"Opioid addiction is huge. It's responsible for at least 80 percent of the crimes that are committed," Wicomico County State's Attorney Matt Maciarello said.

Which is why state and local leaders are putting their heads together for an action plan.

"We are developing a number of different strategies surrounding things like data collection from multiple agencies as well as the state, so that we can look at where we are in managing this issue. Are we getting better? What else can we do to manage overdose deaths? We're also developing a local overdose fatality review team, in which we will be looking at the reports from the medical examiner on overdose deaths, so that we can work with our committee members in developing strategies to prevent further deaths," Wicomico County Health Officer Lori Brewster said.

The county's prescription drug task force is urging the community to step up and join the movement to find a resolution.  

"If we can get each one of those resources to take the message back for prevention to their community, to their consumers they work with, to criminals they work with, we're making some headway," Brewster said.

The Prescription Drug Task force meets once a month, and they're now expanding this task force to look at overdose issues. Brewster says the committee is also looking at a number of different strategies to manage the problem, such as working with the state's prescription drug monitoring program, and trying to get everyone that goes in for primary care or emergency department visits to be screened for the drugs.

This was the county's first roundtable discussion involving a drug related issue. Another one will be held six months to a year from now to update the community on progress that's been made.

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