Howard County Executive Calvin Ball Highlights Opioid Progress

Howard County saw a 37% decrease in opioid related deaths in 2019 compared to 2018. There was also a 17% decrease in non-fatal overdoses compared to the previous year. Howard County noted a continued decrease in both non-fatal and fatal overdoses since 2017. This success is built on the coordination between the County and State Government, County departments, including Health, Police, and Fire, and non-profit organizations like Grassroots Crisis Intervention.

“With decreases in opioid fatalities and non-fatal overdoses, we are making progress in fighting the opioid epidemic in Howard County.” said County Executive Ball. “I want to thank everyone at the Health Department, our emergency responders, and our community partners for working tirelessly to keep all our neighbors and loved ones healthy. We saw more than 180 fatal and non-fatal combined overdoses here in Howard County in 2019. Moving forward, we will continue taking a comprehensive approach to provide the full continuum of care in Howard County, and ensure all our residents are healthy and thriving.”

In his first year, Ball worked to address the opioid epidemic by developing solutions and identifying gaps in the service delivery system, which included crisis services. In May, he opened Howard House, the first County-owned treatment facility for individuals on the path to recovery, which is one component of a comprehensive strategy for addressing the opioid epidemic. In December, Grassroots opened the “New Beginnings Crisis Stabilization Center” so that individuals in need of a referral for substance use disorder treatment can receive immediate screening and intervention services so that they do not experience a delay in entry into residential or outpatient treatment.

Next steps include the construction of a new, residential treatment center through a first-of-its-kind partnership in the state between the County and Delphi Behavioral Health Group. Howard County continues to enhance family support through navigation services and integrate substance use treatment within mental health programs to address the high rate of co-occurrence. With these programs, the goal is to make sure that residents seeking treatment will be able to remain here in Howard County.

“The continued downward trend in Howard County’s number of overdoses is encouraging,” said Howard County Health Officer Dr. Maura J. Rossman. “However, we know that opioid misuse is still an issue faced by many. From AED cabinets stocked with Narcan, to peer support specialists, and Living Well programs, to 24/7 crisis services and access to medication assisted treatment, there are many resources available for those battling opioids. Reducing the number of opioid overdoses and saving lives by meeting people where they are remains a priority.”

“While every overdose that occurs is one too many, we are glad to see the overall numbers steadily decreasing,” said Police Chief Lisa Myers. “Police officers see first-hand the devastating effects of these tragic cases. In Howard County, all our officers are equipped with naloxone to be prepared to save a life whenever possible. Our goal is to refer those in need, and their families, to critical resources to stop the cycle of overdoses in our communities.”

“Howard County Fire and Rescue has been an active part of the county’s coordinated, multi-agency, approach to combating this epidemic and assisting those we serve who are battling addiction. We are encouraged by the decline of opioid overdoses and deaths in Howard County,” said Fire Chief Christine M. Uhlhorn. “We also recognize that this work needs to continue, and we remain active in overdose prevention efforts that include teaching residents how to use the life-saving drug naloxone and providing EMS patients and their families with ‘leave-behind’ kits when responding to an overdose. Seeing these death and overdose numbers decline helps us reaffirm that these programs are helping make an impact in our community.”

“A significant point is certainly that lives are being saved,” said Barbara Allen, Chair of the Howard County Opioid Crisis Community Council. “Even more critical is the collaborative efforts between our county government, agencies including Health Department, Police, Fire & Rescue, recovery houses, providers, advocates, non-profits and more. This complex issue requires strength through collaboration. Howard County residents should be proud of our progress to date with more to come.”

In May, Ball also announced that Howard County would be formally suing opioid makers and distributors in Circuit Court, holding them accountable for their role in causing the epidemic.

The County also committed to providing 24/7 crisis services at Grassroots Crisis Intervention, a Narcan mailing program to overcome healthcare barriers, extended outpatient services, proper emergency room referrals to peer recovery specialists, funding for behavioral health navigators, and continuing to support naloxone training and distribution across Howard County.

###

Scott E