WICOMICO COUNTY, Md. - The heroin and opioid epidemic in Wicomico County is getting worse, but local leaders are taking steps to try and save more lives.
Wicomico County Sheriff Mike Lewis said that from a law enforcement perspective, the problem is growing.
"Despite our very best efforts over the last seven years, it is getting worse. No question about it. Keep in mind, we as Americans have an insatiable appetite for narcotics. And as long as there is a demand, there is going to be a supply," Lewis told WBOC on Wednesday.
According to the data from the Wicomico County Health Department, there were 100 overdoses reported at Peninsula Regional Medical Center in Salsibury for all of 2015. There have been 103 overdoses in just the first three months of 2016. To address the opioid issue, Wicomico County was one of the first jurisdictions in the state of Maryland to create a county plan of action. One part of the plan, unveiled Wednesday morning, is the creation of the Community Outreach Addiction Team, or the COAT program.
"Peer support individuals that are in recovery go out with law enforcement on law enforcement calls related to overdoses to areas that are known to be where these individuals use," said Lori Brewster, the health officer for Wicomico County.
Members of COAT will be people who have undergone addiction treatment themselves. People who can relate to addicts in need of help. The team will let users know there is treatment available and be their guide for staying on the right path until they get the help they need.
"It is not a long time, but it is a long time in the life of an addict. These individuals, when they are ready for treatment, they need to be able to access it then, or have a bridge to when they actually get the treatment," Brewster said.
Team members in the COAT program will serve as that bridge. People for addicts who want to get clean can lean on in their initial steps to recovery. Unfortunately, the COAT program is not going to end the heroin and opioid epidemic, but it could go a long way in saving lives.
Another new initiative in Wicomico County to raise awareness about the issue is an art and film competition. Wicomico County teenagers are encourage to create a work of art of 30-second film about the dangers of opioid use. The winners will receive scholarship money provided to the competition from seized drug money.