In part one of the Opioid Epidemic: A Public Health Response, moderated by Delegate John Olszewski Jr., attendees learned about opioid use and what local health departments are doing to educate their communities and provide treatment to those suffering from substance use disorders.
Health Officer for Somerset County, Mr. Craig Stofko, established a foundation for the discussion by providing an overview of the rising problem of opioid use and overdoses across the state through a heartfelt story of how a heroin addiction hit close to home. He encouraged everyone to keep an open mind to new, innovative, and possibly controversial solutions to the difficult problem.
Dr. Yngvild Olsen, Medical Director, Institute for Behavior Resources, Inc., detailed the science behind addiction and substance use disorders. In 15 minutes she attempted to summarize 40 years of research leaving the audience with an important and nuanced takeaway: there is a difference between addiction and physical dependence. While anyone can develop a physical dependence, not everyone will develop an addiction.
Dr. Jinlene Chan, Acting Health Officer, Anne Arundel County Department of Health and Dr. Babak Imanoel, Medical Director, Adult Addiction Services for the Anne Arundel County Department of Health co-presented on the innovative Road to Recovery program housed at the Ordnance Road Correctional Center. Inmates are at a high risk for overdose after their release. The program allows for the continuation or initiation of treatment while incarcerated and helps reduce recidivism and overdoses following release.
The panelist reinforced that there are many paths to recovery and much left to be done in managing this issue.