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Baltimore County News

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By Gregory Wm. Branch, M.D., MBA, CPE, FACP, Director, Baltimore County Department of Health and Human, Services          

The opioid epidemic has a tight grip on communities across the country. In Baltimore County, we are employing an array of strategies to help save lives. While the Baltimore County Department of Health is leading these strategies, it is increasingly clear that we all have a role to play in the County’s R.E.A.C.H. effort.

Recovery

Meet people where they are

The Department of Health provides specialists to help people navigate the steps to recovery. Our Certified Peer Recovery Specialists meet with clients, provide one-on-one training and assist with securing resources and services. They use caring, compassionate communication to connect with clients seeking help.

Education

Know what to do

Overdose deaths involving fentanyl are rising at an alarming rate. We all need to become familiar with the dangers of fentanyl and learn what to do if we suspect acquaintances, family members or loved ones of being at risk. Baltimore County provides free overdose response training in locations across the County each month. These trainings teach what an opioid is, how to recognize, respond to and prevent an opioid overdose and how to administer naloxone, the non-addictive medication that reverses the effects of opioids. Click here for training dates.

Assessment

Connect to services

We work diligently to help people battling addiction get the help they need to recover. The County has walk-in assessment clinics at the Eastern Family Resource Center and the Liberty Family Resource Center. Screening assessments also are conducted at all substance abuse sites and Strategic Brief Intervention and Referral Treatment is implemented at school-based wellness centers across the County.

Collaboration

Know what is in your medicine cabinet

Unused prescription drugs in the wrong hands can be lethal. Parents, grandparents and guardians must take inventory of what is in their medicine cabinets, secure all unexpired medications that are genuinely needed, and use drug drop boxes to safely dispose of those that are not. Drug drop boxes are located outside every Baltimore County police precinct and are always available. This is just one example of the County partnerships at work in our battle against substance misuse.

HELP

410-88-REACH

If you or someone you know is fighting substance misuse issues, know that there is help. Baltimore County’s 410-88-REACH (410-887-3224) is our help line and the place to call to get information about available resources, referrals and to have your questions and concerns addressed. This help line is completely confidential and is answered by specialists Monday through Saturday from 8:30 a.m. – midnight. Online information for substance use and recovery services can also be found at www.baltimorecountymd.gov/41088REACH.


Residents and Businesses Encouraged to Plan and Follow County Updates Online

Baltimore County’s public safety and health officials conducted a hurricane preparedness exercise this morning in the Emergency Operations Center and outlined the County’s emergency preparedness, reminding residents and businesses to plan ahead in case of severe storms and flooding. Today’s exercise asked emergency operations representatives from County agencies and partner organizations to respond to a hypothetical hurricane similar to Isabel, which caused severe flooding in coastal Baltimore County in September of 2003.

During the exercise, Baltimore County Executive Don Mohler and the County’s top emergency management, public works and health leadership team outlined the County’s year-round storm preparations and recommendations for residents.

Preparation is Key

County officials encouraged people to have an emergency plan, prepare to get through three days without power, and stock up on water, non-perishable foods, flashlights, batteries and back-up power sources for their cellphones. They suggested that residents check to see if they need flood insurance and to prepare in advance for medical and prescription needs and for pet care. More information about storm preparedness can be found on the County website at baltimorecountymd.gov/emergency.

“We work to ensure that our first responders have the best equipment and training available and practice our coordinated response protocols multiple times each year,” said Mohler. “We are prepared and now is the time for residents and businesses to take some time to make sure they are prepared as well.”

Real-time storm updates available on the County’s website and social media platforms

Mohler reminded residents to follow the County’s Emergency Management Twitter feed, @BACOemergency, for storm warnings and updates on storm response, sheltering operations and more. “The recent extreme flooding in Ellicott City and Catonsville was an important wake-up call to all of us that these severe storms can pop up at any time and we all need to stay alert and be prepared to respond quickly,” he said.

“Flash flooding is particularly dangerous and we do have areas all around the County that are susceptible to coastal and inland flooding, and it is very important for people to keep up with storm forecasts and connect online with our County emergency managers for storm response updates,” said County Council Chair Julian Jones.

The County’s Stormfighter web page allows people to self-report storm-related issues. The system integrates with the County’s GIS mapping technology and provides real-time visual data to assist DPW and emergency managers in responding to severe storms or other localized or regional emergencies. Stormfighter provides a link to live traffic camera feeds from the Maryland Department of Transportation’s Coordinated Highways Action Response Team (CHART). It also offers a link to the County’s list of road closures, which lists County roads that are currently closed due to repairs, accidents, weather or other hazards. State roads and interstates are not included. Information on State roads can be found on the Maryland Department of Transportation’s travel advisories and road closures web page at http://www.chart.state.md.us/incidents/index.php.   


Emergency Room Staff, Certified Peer Counselors and Naloxone: Working Together to Save Lives

As part of a multi-pronged approach to stem the tide of opioid overdose deaths, the Baltimore County Department of Health and elected officials provided naloxone to four Baltimore County hospitals today. Greater Baltimore Medical Center, MedStar Franklin Square Medical Center, Northwest Hospital and University of Maryland St. Joseph Medical Center each received approximately 1,200 doses of the medication to distribute to high risk patients being discharged from the hospitals. 

“Naloxone saves lives but only if it is available on the spot, in the moment it is needed,” said Baltimore County Executive Don Mohler. “This important partnership with our hospitals means we empower their peer support counselors to get this life-saving medication into the hands of family and friends who can save the lives of their loved ones.”

Dr. Gregory Wm. Branch, Director of the Department of Health and Human Services presented the hospitals with a supply of NARCAN® (an intra-nasal brand of naloxone) calling it the drug of second chances. “Naloxone works! We know that this drug saves lives when administered in time,” said Dr. Branch. “Making it available in our local emergency rooms can mean giving someone a second chance to change their life trajectory.”

“We are honored to team with Baltimore County in our commitment to reduce opioid deaths,” said Sandy Winfield, MS, FACHE, vice president of Clinical and Support Services at MedStar Franklin Square Medical Center. “We are grateful for this generous donation that unfortunately, has become vitally important to the cause.”

“I strongly believe that by working together, community hospitals and our county government can make a serious impact,” said Jeffrey P. Sternlicht, MD, FACEP, chairman of the Department of Emergency Medicine at the Greater Baltimore Medical Center. “We are proud to be a part of this collaborative effort to provide the delivery of this life-saving medication and to help those that are struggling with their addiction.”

Providing naloxone to the four Baltimore County hospitals is just one of the ways the Department of Health is working to reduce the number of deaths caused by opioid overdose. The County has also increased the number of certified peer recovery specialists who focus on helping others to break the grip of addiction. These peer recovery specialists will work with others connected with the four hospitals to provide support, resources and services to people in the community as well as those who have been treated in local emergency rooms for addiction-related issues.   

Distribution of naloxone is also a part of ongoing training sessions that occur across Baltimore County each month. These free, two-hour sessions provide education to the community about the dangers of illicit opioid use, available resources for those in need of services, and instructions on how to effectively administer the drug to reverse an opioid overdose.

Visit www.baltimorecountymd.gov/odresponse or call 410-887-3224 for a listing of upcoming training dates and locations.


 
 
Revised September 11, 2017