Anne Arundel County program shows progress fighting opioid epidemic

Posted at 6:17 PM, Jun 20, 2017
and last updated 2017-06-20 18:17:10-04

Heroin addiction is a growing problem across the state. The number of deaths are staggering and with the influx of new and more potent opioids, like fentanyl and carefentanil, a solution to the epidemic doesn't seem to be in site. 

Yet, a program in Anne Arundel County is making an impact on the deadly problem. The Safe Stations program started two months ago. 

Any county resident battling addiction can come to any county fire station and ask for help in their journey to recovery. Soon after the announcement, Jenna Keefer walked into a fire station.

After seeking help, Keefer says she's more in control of her life. She said heroin isn't making the decisions on how she lives her life now. 

"I wanted to do something, my life was no way to live. So I got up and I took myself there and it was the best decision I ever made," she said. 

Keefer may have been the first person to walk into an Anne Arundel County fire station, but she isn't alone. Officials say 55 others in just the first 60 days have sought help from the Safe Stations. 

"So everything just snowballed," she said. "This is definitely not where I saw myself when I was a little girl but It happened and it happens to some really good people."

This year in Anne Arundel County alone, 530 people have overdosed on heroin, 59 have lost their lives. 

"You either get clean or you die. I knew that's where my life was headed. I was going to end up dying," Keefer said. 

Like many addicts, Keefer had tried to get help before. 

"I looked and I looked and I couldn't find it," she said. "I had people turning me down daily. I was so distraught and at the end I thought I wasn't going to have a way out of that life."

Anne Arundel County is trying to make it easier for addict to "find their way out of the life." When you go to a Safe Station, even with drugs or paraphernalia, you won't be arrested. The police will come and discard the drugs, while the firefighters will help you start your fight against heroin. 

"They welcomed me with open arms. When I walked into that fire station and I had all the EMT's all the fire fighters just right at my beck and call. They took my vitals they talked me through this process, they were really comforting and made me feel comfortable about what I was doing. They made that transition a lot easier for me," Keefer said. 

Sixty days ago, life for Keefer was dark as it's ever been. Now, thanks to the Safe Stations program, she finds herself in a better place. 

"I never thought I would be here. Life today is amazing. Life today is amazing. I'm learning to love my life again," she said.

Of the 56 people who came in looking for help, it's not certain how many are going to beat their addiction for good, but what is certain is there are 56 more people that were given a chance by the county to get their lives back together, away from the disaster that it was under heroin.