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Photo Credit: Howard County Government

Howard County Executive Recognizes Rangers for Saving Two Lives, Provides Comprehensive Opioid Update

Howard County Executive Calvin Ball on September 14th recognized two Park Rangers for saving two lives by administering Narcan during a medical emergency at Rockburn Branch Park in Elkridge. Ball also highlighted continued efforts to combat the opioid crisis in Howard County by ensuring access to care and harm reduction initiatives. Photos of the event can be found here.

“In 2021, Narcan was administered in every case of a non-fatal overdose,” said Ball. “During the pandemic, our Health Department has continued to work with community partners and government departments to train more people in overdose response, including how to administer Narcan in an emergency. These efforts have resulted in real results and lives saved. This situation could have ended much differently if these two rangers had not been trained in our Overdose Response Program and how to administer Narcan. Thank you to our Rangers for their quick action, and to the many others who arrived on the scene to help saves lives that day.”

On August 7, 2021, at approximately 6:19 p.m., Howard County Police Department dispatched a call for a medical emergency at Rockburn Branch Park, where two men were unconscious from a suspected heroin overdose. Rangers Tabitha Kanagie and Ian Smith approached the scene and assessed each patient, neither was breathing or had a pulse, and both were blueish in color around the lips. The Rangers began the resuscitation process on their respective patients. Each Ranger then administered one dose of Narcan (naloxone) to their patients and continued to provide chest compressions. Eventually, both patients showed signs of life.

Howard County Fire and Rescue arrived at approximately 6:32 p.m. and took over life-saving procedures. They delivered more doses of naloxone to the patients and transported both patients to Howard County General Hospital.

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“Tabitha and Ian are true life savers,” said Howard County Recreation & Parks Director A. Raul Delerme. “Their extensive training from the Department prepared them to react quickly in a stressful situation where seconds made the difference between life and death.”

“Our Park Rangers quick response, recognition, and delivery of Narcan prior to EMS arrival certainly saved lives that day,” said Fire Chief Louis Winston. “Their actions demonstrate how the community can be the first link in the chain of survival during an overdose crisis.”

“We could not have accomplished what we did without the quick and skillful response of Howard County’s Police and Fire and Rescue and the Naxolone and Naxolone training provided by the Howard County Health Department,” said Howard County Park Ranger Tabitha Kanagie. “I’d also like to thank County Executive Ball and the Recreation and Parks Director Delerme, for their continued support of the Park Ranger Program.”

“As a Howard County resident and a member of the Elkridge community, I would like to express how grateful I am for the positive outcome of this incident,” said Howard County Park Ranger Ian Smith. “I am grateful for the opportunity to give back to my community and grateful to everyone here for their support.”

County Executive Ball noted the measurable progress in Howard County’s efforts to combat the opioid crisis prior to the pandemic, with a continued decrease in both non-fatal and fatal overdoses from 2017 to 2019. Additionally, Nonfatal overdoses fell from a high of 132 in 2018 to 99 in 2020 – a 25% decrease.

However, the COVID-19 pandemic brought many challenges to those facing substance misuse. In 2020, Howard County saw a 43% increase in opioid related deaths compared to 2019, part of a national and statewide trend as the COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated opioid and substance misuse. The State saw its highest opioid fatality number to date in 2020 at over 2,500 deaths statewide. While fatalities at the State level continue to rise, Howard County has seen a drop in fatal overdoses from last year, down over 70%, from 47 to 9.

“While the decrease in fatal opioid overdoses this year is encouraging, there is still progress to be made,” said Dr. Roe Rodgers-Bonaccorsy, Howard County Health Department Bureau of Behavioral Health Director. “Our goal is to prevent all deaths and other adverse events related to substance misuse through harm reduction and eventually provide resources and guidance to individuals using drugs and their families to develop a recovery plan.”

Howard County continues to follow recommendations to combat substance use disorders including:

  • Ensuring access to care for patients with an opioid use disorder;
  • Protecting patients with pain; and
  • Harm reduction to help prevent overdose and spread of infectious disease

During the pandemic, the Howard County Health Department has continued to work with community partners and government departments to train more people in Overdose Response, including how to administer Narcan in an emergency.

In the last fiscal year – from July 2020 to July 2021, the Health Department has:

  • Trained nearly 600 people in its Overdose Response program;
  • Distributed 550 Narcan kits; and
  • Distributed more than 4,500 Deterra Bags, which allow for safe drug disposal.

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Scott E

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