Overdose Review Team Tackles Deadly Trend In Wicomico Co. - 47 ABC - Delmarva's Choice

Overdose Review Team Tackles Deadly Trend In Wicomico Co.

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WICOMICO CO., Md. – In 2012 alone, there were 22 overdose deaths in Wicomico County, making it one of the top five counties in Maryland as far as a yearly increase.

"We're really trying to get a hand on this," says Lieutenant Timothy Robinson with the Wicomico County Sheriff's Office.

Every week, officials with the Wicomico County Sheriff's Office say they make at least one heroin arrest. Sometimes, it's at least one arrest a day. At the Wicomico County Health Department, 244 people are currently being treated for a heroin addiction. All of the victims are at risk for going downhill in many ways, especially overdosing.

 "It is affecting all walks of life, in every community, it knows no boundaries," says Lieutenant Robinson.

It's part of the many reasons Wicomico County established an Overdose Fatality Review Team, made up of health department officials, PRMC employees, EMS, law enforcement, prosecutors, and other leaders, to meet after any local overdose death.

"We all gather and discuss what happened, we discuss the backgrounds of these individuals, the warning signs that were there," says Lieutenant Robinson. "We will discuss how we can prevent and where we can learn from these, to see how these things and why these things are happening."

"We review some different scenarios in their life that we're aware of and then we try to make recommendations," says Heather Brown with the Wicomico County Health Department.

The first meeting was held on February 14th, 2014, and the team has had one other meeting since. While the team is still early in the process, they have made some big strides. For law enforcement, this involves taking an aggressive, zero-tolerance approach when it comes to heroin arrests.

"We're finding the easiest way to get heroin addicts help is to take them into custody, put them in an extremely supervised setting like the detention center, and start them on a program for rehabilitation from there," says Lieutenant Robinson.

Brown says they also want to beef up EMS training so they can properly respond to certain situations.

"We've started a program where we can help them provide resources and information to individuals they may need to respond to in terms of overdoses," says Brown. "We're also looking at different ways to better coordinate treatment services for those that maybe aren't linked with treatment services."

Brown says they also have started to work with some of the doctors about prescribing guidelines, and have continued efforts with their naloxone training. The Eastern Shore Crisis Intervention Team, which works to train law enforcement officers on how to de-escalate a crisis situation, is also set to officially begin in a few months, which Brown feels will go well with the Overdose Fatality Review Team.

In the meantime, she feels the teamwork across the county has big room to improve.

"Some of the individuals that had passed away might not have been in some of the legal systems, so if they're not in some of the systems it's hard for us to locate," says Brown. "That's why we really need to develop our partnerships together and figure out how we can communicate."

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