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As we reported last month, Charles County is seeing an increase in heroin use that many law enforcement and health officials say is due to the crackdown on illegal prescription drug use. The majority of drug users turning to heroin are doing so because other drugs no longer are easily available. 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 more readily available on the street.

This isn’t just a problem in Charles County. Officials in jurisdictions all across the country are attempting to get a handle on this emerging crisis.

In just the past few weeks, Calvert County has become focused on creating an adult drug court, where nonviolent offenders would be offered the chance to seek counseling and rehabilitation in lieu of a jail sentence. It’s important to attack the root of substance abuse issues instead of simply throwing someone into a jail cell, or, worse, on the street with no help. Calvert also is creating a program to address issues surrounding pregnant women who have substance abuse problems. In St. Mary’s County a few weeks ago, more than 500 people attended a community drug summit to discuss that county’s growing problem.

So it was welcome news Tuesday when Charles County Commissioner Bobby Rucci discussed the issue at the board’s meeting. It is about time that someone in a position to do something took notice of the problem. The statistics on the increasing number of addicts and overdoses paint a real picture of how bad the problem is becoming. Rucci seems to have gotten the ball rolling on bringing attention to the problem in Charles County. The commissioners discussed the lack of funding for inpatient treatment and will be asking our federal and state elected officials to join in the search for money. The idea of a round-table discussion was another of Rucci’s ideas.

Finding a solution must entail bringing together people from all walks of life. Any chance of success in fighting this growing crisis must include our elected officials, law enforcement and judicial personnel, health care professionals, drug counselors, addicts in recovery, families who are being torn apart by drug abuse and even those families who have lost loved ones to drug overdoses.

There already are many agencies that are taking smart measures to combat drug use in the county. We know that the police are chasing drug dealers. That costs money. And treating addicts costs money, too. The best way to combat drug abuse is to combat addiction and get substance abusers the help and support they need. Our elected officials must make sure that the groups on the frontline have the resources to successfully fight this battle.

But the growing drug problem also must be tackled by the community. That starts with a public dialogue. Tuesday’s discussion is a promising first step.