- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
More than 500 people attended a drug summit for parents hosted Friday night at the Hollywood Volunteer Fire Department.
They included parents who have lost children to drug overdoses. They were counselors, and addicts in recovery. They were candidates running for elected office, health care professionals and at least one man who said the solution was a commitment to Jesus Christ.
They filled the hall. They cried. They offered advice and, long after the meeting ended at 8:30 p.m., they stayed, encouraging one another and making connections.
“Like many of you, I’m a parent,” said Dr. Meena Brewster, county health officer during the summit. “I’m very, very concerned about everything we’ve been hearing this evening.”
Presentations by Brewster, Michael Martirano, superintendent of St. Mary’s County schools, as well as leaders from Walden and county government, offered sobering numbers. Last year, there were 76 prescription drug overdose cases, including five children, according to the St. Mary’s sheriff’s office. In 2012, there were 91 overdoses, with 10 involving youth. And, in 2011, there were 79 overdoses from prescription drugs. Again, five were juveniles.
During those three years, 12 of those overdoses resulted in death. And many got the pills from family members, medicine cabinets and friends.
As police crack down on the pill problem, users are turning to heroin, which is cheaper and available on the street. The county went from no heroin-related deaths in 2011 to five last year, presenters said. And, the problem is most prevalent among teens and young adults.
In 2013, Walden served 449 clients in a drug detox program. About half were from St. Mary’s. And, of all of Walden’s admissions now, about 60 percent are related to opiate addiction, said director Kathy O’Brien.
Brandi Cooper, who said she is a former user in recovery, stood in a long line of people waiting to ask panelists questions or to comment. She said 21 days of detox “isn’t enough.”
For her, part of the struggle was coming out of a lifestyle where drug use was acceptable. As she was fighting to recover, Cooper said, “I went back because I didn’t know any other way to live.”