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The Charles County commissioners voted unanimously Tuesday to take action against the growing prevalence of opioid drug use in Charles County as part of an effort spearheaded by Commissioner Bobby Rucci.

Rucci (D) took a vocal stance against drug use in the county, particularly the growing trend in opioid and heroin abuse.

“There’s a drug crisis throughout our state, and I’m concerned with how we’re going to address it,” Rucci said during the commissioners’ regular meeting. “I’m fed up, and I think a lot of other people are fed up. ... There is still no progress.”

Rucci spoke of how in recent years the region has seen a 34 percent increase in deaths related to heroin.

“We need to intervene to turn this around,” Rucci said. “Surely we could find the money to help save lives. We have to send a clear message to drug dealers that the citizens of Charles County will not stand back and watch them destroy the lives of their own.”

Among proposed means for stemming the drug use tide were ways to find funding for a treatment center in the county, along with a round-table discussion intended to allow citizens to meet with local leaders so that faces could be assigned to the crisis, making it more tangible.

Rucci made a motion for a two-step plan that would include reaching out to state and federal politicians for assistance, along with obtaining from the Charles County Department of Health, Charles County State’s Attorney’s Office, Charles County Sheriff’s Office and the courts their plans for responding to the problem. Action on a proposed declaration of a state of emergency has not yet been taken. Commissioners are trying to come up with an alternate phrase that suits the situation better.

In session, commissioners’ Vice President Reuben B. Collins II questioned the language around the state of emergency.

“I support it ... but I think it needs clarification,” Collins said of the measure as a whole.

Commissioner Ken Robinson (D) acknowledged the need for police and medical first responders to carry a nasal spray drug called Narcan that can counteract the effects of a heroin overdose. Robinson said that earlier this week Anne Arundel County police officers were given the authority to begin carrying the drug with them.

Robinson said Narcan is not available in Charles County to emergency personnel, including police and emergency medical personnel.

“The suffering in our community, it’s heartbreaking. ... It affects everyone,” said commissioners’ President Candice Quinn Kelly (D), who worked with Rucci on the initiative.

“The problem is widespread, and we’re feeling it in a very significant way in Charles County,” Robinson said Thursday of why he chose to back Rucci’s motion. “We need to do something, and I think ... we need to come up with a strategy to combat what has become a scourge. I don’t see it having an immediate effect, but it will help.”

Speaking on Thursday, Rucci said he was motivated to action after seeing the growth of drug addiction and hearing about it from his constituents.

“We’re having a crisis. If we don’t do more, then in my opinion we’re going to have an epidemic,” Rucci said. “It’ll be a bigger problem later if we don’t start now. People try to hush it up. People don’t want to talk about it. I want to come out full force against it.”

Charles County Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman Diane Richardson said the department has grown very involved in community outreach programs geared toward alleviating addiction, including attendance at a local support group meeting in January for families affected by drug addiction.

Richardson also said narcotics officers will provide awareness training in the community when asked to do so, and there are a plethora of programs aimed at helping youth avoid developing substance abuse issues and helping them get back on the straight and narrow when they falter.

lrenner@somdnews.com