What is the role of county government in addressing the growing number of opioid overdoses and opioid abuse?
Pittman: Counties are ground zero in the national war on opioid addiction. With over 1,000 overdoses and 155 deaths last year, there is no room for parochialism, politics, or blame. Service providers look to county government to coordinate efforts and fill the gaps in education, prevention, treatment, rehabilitation, and law enforcement. It starts with the doctors who prescribe the opioids. Thanks to Maryland’s new Prescription Drug Monitoring Program and lawsuits against doctors who abuse their licenses, opioid prescriptions are decreasing. Our police must continue to track down and arrest the heroin dealers. It’s the only way to keep the deadly fentanyl-laced drugs out of the hands of users. These arrests save lives. Opening police and fire stations as safe places for people to seek treatment sends a strong signal that local government will help. It also connects neighborhoods to information about treatment options. The greatest challenge is our shortage of treatment centers. We have Hope House at Crownsville Hospital Center, where talk of eviction by the state of Maryland threatens the future of the facility, and we have Maryland House Detox about to open in Linthicum, despite assessment by the county of a large development impact fee for rehabilitation of an existing building. We must embrace these and other facilities in our communities. As of April 10, just ten days after the first quarter of this year, our county had suffered 52 opioid deaths. These were our neighbors, co-workers, and sometimes our families. Every life we save is a triumph.