On heroin in our communities

As a defense attorney, I have encountered many people who are overcome by the power of drug addiction. Part of my job is to make sure that addicts seek and get the proper treatment so they are on the road to recovery. Whether it is pro bono case or a family member helping pay the addict’s bills, drug cases can explode exponentially because of missed court appearances and lack of home addresses. Many heroin or opioid addicts are nonviolent.

As a commissioner on The Annapolis Human Relations Commission, I recently co-chaired a forum that addressed the heroin epidemic in our communities. As of last week, there have been 94 fatal overdoses and 589 overdoses in Anne Arundel County this year. (The forum was put on in conjunction with the Anne Arundel County’s nationally recognized “Not My Child” initiative.)

Police, an addict in recovery, a mother of a son who died of an overdose, health care providers and emergency response teams were all represented. They offered tips such as locking up prescription drugs and taking unused prescription drugs to a police station to throw away. They called for making Narcan, a drug that temporarily reverses the effects of opioid use, more widely available to various organizations. An eye-opening thing for myself was the general consensus that it is more difficult for people with private insurance to get treatment or a bed in a halfway house than it is for people who are uninsured.

Continued focus on education, awareness and funds directed to this epidemic is needed. The Good Samaritan Law was a “good” start. Maryland law states if you help someone in good faith who is in need of medical assistance from a drug or alcohol medical emergency, you and the person you help are immune from criminal prosecution (Md. Ann. Code Art. CR § 1-210).

But there needs to be more legislation on this important public safety issue to our communities, bills that address both prevention of drug dealers and mitigation of opioid abuse in our communities. Initiatives such as the “Not My Child” campaign are excellent starts, but more work is called for.