HAGERSTOWN, Md. (WDVM) — Maryland’s Lieutenant Governor Boyd Rutherford visited Hagerstown Thursday to discuss the ongoing issue of opioid addiction in the state.
Rutherford sat down with Hagerstown’s Mayor Emily Keller and other community leaders to address the issue in schools and improving recovery homes. The chiefs of the Hagerstown Fire and Police departments also voiced their concerns about the ongoing issue and believe that crisis centers should be a priority moving forward.
Rutherford says that law enforcement officers, and even family members, need to have a place where they can take people who are in crisis.
“When law enforcement gets involved and they need a place to be able to take people who are in crisis at that point, either with substance use disorder or mental health or a combination of the two, and they’re ready for some type of additional services,” Rutherford explained.
He also emphasized that discussions about the dangers associated with drug use and abuse should be happening much earlier in schools and plans to connect with Superintendant Boyd Michael about how the school system can better engage with their students. Rutherford says the conversations about drug use and the dangers of abuse should be implemented earlier in the education system rather than waiting until high school.
Rutherford also addressed the differences in the response to the opioid crisis in western Maryland when compared to more metropolitan areas like Baltimore. He explained that areas like the Eastern Shore and the greater Baltimore area have more resources and better access to those resources like crisis centers. He hopes that community conversations like the meeting he had on Thursday can highlight that the opioid crisis stretches across the whole state, not just more metropolitan and more populated areas.
Sometimes in other parts of the state, they don’t realize the challenge that the western counties are facing. A lot of that is because this crossroads, major highway that comes through,” Rutherford explained. “It’s very easy to get to those markets or distribution sites that can bring drugs into the community, as well as transport out or back and forth.”
“So, we still have a challenge here. While we are wearing masks to protect ourselves from COVID, there are people who are struggling with substance use disorder, and it is still a major issue in the state in the country and here in Hagerstown, as well.”Maryland Lieutenant Governor Boyd Rutherford
Rutherford says that the Maryland Department of Health is planning to build a number of new crisis centers across the state. He was unable to confirm whether one would be constructed in western Maryland.