Though Howard County has seen a 27% decrease in nonfatal overdoses in 2020 compared to this time last year, there has also been a 10% increase in fatal overdoses compared to the previous year. Howard County’s numbers are a part of a larger trend nationally and across jurisdictions suggesting that the COVID-19 pandemic increases risk factors for people with substance use disorders. County Executive Calvin Ball continues to work towards creating a continuum of care for those with substance use disorders, allocating $750,000 in his FY21 operating budget to bring a residential treatment facility to Howard County.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has clearly highlighted the disparities in our healthcare system, including the need for greater resources to continue combatting substance use disorders,” said County Executive Ball. “The increase in fatal overdoses is a trend that we’re seeing across the country, and we will continue to monitor our numbers as the pandemic evolves to ensure we are building the necessary capacity. I’m thankful the Howard County Council approved the funding for a local residential treatment facility for our FY21 budget, as this project is critical to providing a continuum of care for those with substance use disorders.”
Howard County continues to follow recommendations to combat substance use disorders amid the pandemic, including:
- Ensuring access to care for patients with an opioid use disorder
- Protecting patients with pain
- Harm reduction to help prevent overdose and spread of infectious disease
In his first year in office, Ball worked to address the opioid epidemic by developing solutions and identifying gaps in the service delivery system, which included crisis services. In May 2019, 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 2019, 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. The center is anticipated to open in Summer 2021. 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.
In May 2019, 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. In December 2019, the lawsuit was transferred to the Multi-District Litigation (MDL), consolidating legal action. The lawsuit is currently pending before a federal judge in the Northern District of Ohio.
In 2019, Howard 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.
For support on substance use disorders, please visit:https://www.howardcountymd.gov/HoCoOpioidHelp.