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How Carroll County Significantly Decreased Opioid Deaths

Anika Swartz - Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Carroll County experienced a significant decline in opioid overdose deaths and non-fatal overdoses over the period January – June 2018 versus January – June 2019. Opioid-related deaths decreased from 33 during the first half of 2018 to 13 during the first half of 2019 (a decline of 60%), and non-fatal opioid overdoses decreased from 293 to 194 (a decline of 33%). This is part of a broader trend: across Maryland the number of fatal opioid overdoses declined 14% in the first quarter of 2019 (second quarter state data is not yet available). Carroll County stands out as being particularly successful in reducing the number of overdoses.

The County has implemented several innovative strategies that have impacted the number of overdoses. Increased law enforcement with data-driven intelligence has been a key component in fighting the opioid epidemic. Education and prevention efforts in schools have also played a role. The County has crisis beds for those addicted to opioids, to help people access services quickly, and the State’s Attorney has an Overdose Response Team that works with individuals who have had multiple overdoses and helps them get into treatment. The County has also partnered with non-profits—a part played by Beth Schmidt, MCF’s Substance Use Family Peer Support Specialist for Carroll County.

Beth has worked with Carroll County to fight the opioid epidemic for many years. She is a member of the Carroll County Opioid Prevention Coalition, and serves on multiple boards, including the Local Overdose Fatality Review Team (LOFRT). The Review Team looks at every instance of overdose in Carroll County and tries to determine if and how the individual fell through the cracks. They discuss when and what intercepts could have helped to prevent the overdose fatality, and use this information to inform future work.

Beth has conducted trainings on the use of Naloxone (a drug that reverses an opioid overdose).

In addition to providing trainings on the use of Naloxone, Beth does trainings on the Good Samaritan Law. The law was enacted to help reduce the number of overdose deaths in Maryland. This law provides that, if someone calls 911 in an effort to help during an overdose crisis, or if they themselves are experiencing an overdose, they will not be arrested, charged, or prosecuted for:

  • possession of a controlled dangerous substance
  • possession or use of drug paraphernalia
  • providing alcohol to minors

Beth has provided trainings on the Good Samaritan Law at Carroll County Health Department events, at Carroll County Women’s Sober Homes, at On Our Own of Carroll County, and in schools to both students and parents.

Finally, Beth has long been an active presence in Carroll County Schools as part of prevention efforts. She participates in the “Opioid Prevention Teen Support” program for high school students that is provided in every Carroll County High School. A film is shown, which was created by the State’s Attorney’s office and includes the story of Beth’s son, Sean, who died of an opioid overdose in 2013 at the age of 23 after more than one year of sobriety. The film is followed by speakers, including Beth, and a question-and-answer session. The film is also shown to a parents’ group, after which Beth answers questions and presents on the Good Samaritan Law. Beth also gives presentations to middle school students and shares Sean’s story, to drive home the message that anyone can become addicted to opioids.

While the decline in the number of overdoses both statewide and in Carroll County is good news, the fight is by no means over. We need to continue to develop innovative strategies and invest resources to combat the opioid epidemic.

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