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Working to break the cycle of drug addiction in Maryland

Posted: 10:33 AM, Dec 06, 2021
Updated: 2021-12-07 17:36:32-05
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In the past year, drug overdose fatalities have increased nearly 30 percent.

That's an estimated 100,306 drug overdose deaths, compared to the 78,056 deaths during the same period the year before.

An average of 270 people per day, dying of drug overdoses. Which begs the question, how do we break this cycle?

In the state of Maryland, between 2017 and 2018 specifically, opioid related overdose deaths increased by 5 percent.

Jennifer Redding, LCSW-C, Executive Director of Behavioral Health with University of Maryland Upper Chesapeake Health and the Klein Family Harford Crisis Center says for a long span of time they were climbing in their opioid related overdose deaths in Harford County, but recently had a decrease of about 3 percent.

In 2018, they had 90 individuals who passed from an opioid related overdose.

In 2019, they had 73 individuals who passed away and in 2020, while the numbers are still preliminary, they bounced up by one so 74 people passed away from an opioid related overdoses.

"So while nationwide, the increase is skyrocketing and Maryland, there was a 5 percent increase, Harford County, slightly is having a decrease," said Redding.

Redding says she believes COVID has definitely played a huge factor in the increase statewide and nationally.

"I think with COVID, what it did certainly in the beginning and really for the first year, is it cut off connected-ness with others," she explained. "So you know, even if folks were involved in treatment, and getting care using support networks...all of those stopped."

While some kicked back in a virtual way, it's not the same as getting that face to face interaction.

"If someone is struggling it's a little bit easier to hide it on this virtual sort of platform, but it's a little bit harder if you're in front of another person," Redding continued. "They can pick up on body language and just provide that support or help them reconnect with treatment and their support network."

According to the Maryland Department of Health, ninety percent of all intoxication deaths that occurred in Maryland in 2020 were opioid related.

Redding says one of the biggest barriers that the pandemic brought across the board, and especially in Harford County is access to care.

"When you have a health issue, you have to find a doctor or provider and with mental health, it's even more complicated," Redding said. "So that's the beauty of the Klein Family Harford Crisis Center, we sort of call it the Behavioral Health Hub, you don't have to have things figured out if you're having any sort of symptom."

Redding explained that you don't have to be in a crisis to seek out help. If you're starting to feel any symptoms, or indications that things are taking a dark turn, you can come in, meet with one of their licensed counselors and they'll help figure out the best course of action for you!

Whether that's using their urgent care walk-in center to get to a therapist, outpatient care or any of their other programs, there's always something there to help meet your needs.

Across county lines, Baltimore is also working to expand primary prevention, harm reduction, evidence-based treatment and recovery support services for all Americans.

Recently, U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra announced a new overdose prevention strategy in the city.

RELATED: Feds offer assistance to help prevent drug overdoses

“With this new strategy, we’re breaking new ground to address the full range of drug use and addiction that can result in overdose and death,” said Secretary Becerra. “We’re changing the way we address overdoses. Our new strategy focuses on people – putting the very individuals who have struggled with addiction in positions of power. And thanks to the American Rescue Plan, we can address what so many people have seen in recent years: a rise in overdoses that can risk a person’s life – and affect their entire family.”

With the new strategy comes new tools for treating addictions like fentanyl test strips.

“For the first time, you can now use federal funds to fund those,” said Regina LaBelle, the acting director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy. “We encourage people to use as a harm-reduction strategy to test your drugs before you use them to make sure you know if there is dangerous, illicitly-made fentanyl in your drug. Secondly, we ended a decade-long moratorium on methadone vans---mobile methadone vans.”

The CDC reports that drug overdoses have claimed nearly 900,000 lives in the United States over the past 20 years.

That's 900,000 too many.

For more information on how you can receive help for yourself or a loved one click here. If you would like to learn more about the Klein Family Harford Crisis Center and how you can receive help from them, click here or call 1-800-639-8783.