USMH In the News: Washington County Town Hall

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Overdose crisis town hall in Hagerstown hears feedback, provides updates

By Julie Green

Updates on local efforts to prevent substance use and news about the latest drug trends were shared Wednesday night at a town hall meeting in downtown Hagerstown about the overdose crisis.

The Maryland Opioid Operational Command Center, in partnership with the Washington County Health Department and the University System of Maryland at Hagerstown, hosted a Community Overdose Action Town Hall meeting Wednesday night at the university's downtown hospitality center to hear about the community's needs and get feedback to address opioid-related issues across the state.

Emily Keller, the state's special secretary of opioid response and a former Hagerstown mayor, was among the presenters.

Keller said this was the 11th town hall in a series that will hold meetings in all 23 counties and Baltimore City.

She said her office is coordinating the state's strategic plan to combat the opioid crisis. Though later she said she is trying "to change our language" away from the word opioids to treat it more as an overdose crisis.

Seven Marylanders are dying a day in the crisis, Keller said.

Keller said she knows those who work in the substance use field are feeling frustrated, seeing their communities hurting and people losing loved ones.

"I promise you there is so much good work being done. ... We are all in this together and we are going to get through this," Keller said. "It's going to take a strategic plan, but I promise you we are going to get there."

Through opioid lawsuit money coming in, Maryland will have close to $500 million over the next 18 years, Keller said.

"That’s a ton of money. And it can be a game changer if we are thoughtful in how we dispense those funds and what we’re using them for and what we’re focused on," Keller said. "I think we’re going to see a huge tide turning with the substance use crisis."

Herald Mail Article Link

Opioid crisis prevention town hall explores ways to confront community challenges

by Stephen Cohen

HAGERSTOWN, Md. (DC News Now) — As is the case in communities throughout the region, getting a handle on the opioid crisis remains a challenge.

In Washington County, the “Overdose Action” Town Hall brought health professionals, social service specialists, law enforcement and community leaders together to explore solutions.

The town hall was sponsored by the University System of Maryland-Hagerstown.

Former Hagerstown Mayor Emily Keller, now Gov. Wes Moore’s Special Secretary for Opioid Response, has heard from those on the front lines across Maryland.

“There are people who want treatment and want to get to their medical providers and they need to go right then, when they are in crisis,” Keller said. “We’ve been hearing that transportation is a barrier so we’re trying to address that.”

The country is lacking services for adolescents, according to Vicky Sterling, director of Behavioral Health Services for Washington County.

“But we are strengthening our crisis response. Meritus Hospital has just opened their crisis center here,” she said.

One concern raised at the town hall was accessibility and affordability for treatment in many rural communities.

DC News Now Article Link