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Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz

Announcement of New Baltimore County Substance Abuse Initiatives
February 22, 2016, 11 a.m.

Thank you for coming this morning as we announce two new initiatives in the County’s effort to combat substance abuse.

Government must play a role in society’s effort to combat what is clearly a significant public health issue. This is not a new problem – families and communities have been facing these challenges for years, and as a government, we must continue to help individuals get the help they need.

Abuse of Multiple Substances Has Increased

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, heroin use has increased across the nation among men and women in most age groups and at all income levels. Some of the most significant increases are now being seen in demographic groups with historically low rates of heroin use. Not only are people using heroin, but also they are abusing multiple other substances, including cocaine and prescription opioid painkillers. Plus, heroin-related deaths are on the rise. Between 2002 and 2013, the rate of heroin-related overdose deaths nearly quadrupled, with more than 8,200 deaths in the United States in 2013 alone. Heroin addiction and overdose deaths have increased by a staggering 286 percent since 2002. I have had this point driven home over the past few months through several personal encounters.

As we began to discuss the initiatives that we will unveil this morning, I turned to members of my staff at a meeting and asked, “How many of you have been personally touched by a family member or friend dealing with substance abuse?” Every single hand went up.

Shortly after that meeting, I met with Toni Torsch to discuss steps that Baltimore County could take in helping families and individuals coping with addiction. On December 3, 2010, Toni’s son, Dan, died at the age of 24 from an accidental drug overdose. Toni and her family, who were at Dan’s side for the seven years he battled addiction, know full well that this awful disease not only destroys the loved one involved with drugs, but their family and friends as well. Toni has dedicated her life to helping others trapped in a tunnel of darkness, and she has turned her grief into action by creating the DCT Foundation in memory of her son. Toni, thank you for being here this morning.

We are also joined this morning by a friend of mine for more than 20 years, Dottie Roach, and her husband, Tom, and daughter, Sallie. Dottie, Tom and their son, Cory, have traveled a road that is unfortunately far too familiar to thousands of families across our nation; but I am happy to report that their story has a happy ending.

Cory is 29 years old and started abusing drugs when he was 17. He spent time in the Baltimore County Detention Center and overdosed on four separate occasions. Cory’s life ended several times only to be revived by Baltimore County’s emergency response teams. Tom once described their struggles as parents. He said, “Imagine that you are standing on the beach in Ocean City, and you see your son drowning beyond the waves. You keep trying to reach him, but you are never able to get to him because your feet are stuck in the sand as your son goes under and under, and under again. That is what it is like each and every day when your child is addicted to drugs.” But the Roach story does not end there.

On March 18, Cory will celebrate five years of being drug free, and he is working in Florida as a behavioral health addiction counselor. Dottie and Tom, thank you for being here this morning.

As such, government must continue to help families get the resources they need, and we need to do all we can to make sure individuals do not die on the scene from overdoses when they do occur.

Two New Initiatives

To that end, we are announcing two new initiatives. Effective immediately, Baltimore County will institute a new Helpline connecting families with the resources they need. We want to make sure that everyone who is looking for help in this battle can call one easy-to-remember phone line: 410-88-REACH or 410-887-3224. Let me repeat that: 410-88-REACH or 410-887-3224.

In addition to connecting with County support by phone, individuals may also go directly to the County website for information at www.baltimorecountymd.gov/41088REACH.

I want to emphasize that this is a resource helpline designed to connect individuals and families with available resources. It is not a medical emergency number. Individuals with a medical emergency should continue to call 911.

Baltimore County’s police department is the fourth largest in the State and 19th largest in the nation, and our second major announcement this morning is that, effective immediately, Baltimore County Police will be begin carrying the life-saving medication Narcan. This drug, with no side effects, reverses the effects of opioids, especially in overdoses, saving thousands of lives in our country every year. Our County EMS responders have been carrying Narcan for more than 30 years, but we recognize that there are times when a police office may arrive on the scene first, and we know that the immediate administration of the medication may be a matter of life and death. Plans are underway to train every Baltimore County patrol officer, and the program is expected to be fully operational in the next six months.

While it is important that our first responders be prepared to save lives when they encounter an individual who has overdosed, we cannot delude ourselves into thinking that the administration of Narcan is a panacea or a long-term solution to substance abuse. We must continue to do all we can to connect those who battle addiction each and every day with the services they need.

Public Safety Leadership Team

I thank my public safety leadership team for being here today. Department of Health and Human Services Director Dr. Gregory Branch, Fire Chief John Hohman, and Police Chief Jim Johnson will now share more details about Baltimore County’s substance abuse programs and public safety efforts.

 
Revised April 6, 2016         

 

Contact

County Executive,
Kevin Kamenetz
Phone: 410-887-2450

Contact the County Executive.

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