Public Safety Panel Focuses on Drug Response

In part two of The Opioid Epidemic: A Public Safety Response, moderated by the Honorable David Rudolph, Maryland House of Delegates, attendees learned about the successes and challenges faced by law enforcement in tackling drug use and overdoses.

Major James R. Pyles from the Maryland State Police discussed the state’s initiative to support prevention, enforcement and awareness. He noted that we can’t arrest our way out of the problem and that a comprehensive approach from law enforcement is necessary. Major Pyles highlighted the 2-1-1 program which can be access by anyone anywhere in the state and will residents to local mental health and substance abuse resources within their counties.

Del. David Rudolph, Chief Davis, Mr. Fueston and Major Pyles
From left to Right: Del. Rudolph, Chief Davis, Mr. Fueston and Major Pyles

The Director of the Investigative Support Center (ISC) for the Washington/Baltimore High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA), Glenn Fueston, discussed the role of HIDTA in providing mission critical intelligence and data to help federal, state and local law enforcement combat drug trafficking. He stressed that “data, data and more data” helps law enforcement target those that need to be targeted. Mr. Fueston provided an example of how data was used to trace a supplier back to a number of overdoses within the state.  Mr. Fueston noted that a huge data gap exists for nonfatal overdoses, and urged for greater sharing of data and for finding solutions to overcoming barriers to sharing.

Kevin Davis, Chief of Police for Anne Arundel County Police Department, talked about the county police force’s innovative Operation HOPE (Heroin Overdose Prevention and Eradication) program addressing drug abuse and trafficking. With support of HIDTA and the county health department, Chief Davis was able to collect data and focus efforts on the southern part of the county which they found had a surprisingly high overdose rate. Anne Arundel was also the first police department in the state to be trained to use and carry Narcan, a life-saving drug to used to help stop an overdose. The entire force was trained within a month earlier this year and since then other local police forces as well as portions of the Maryland State Police have been trained to use and carry Narcan.

Governor O’Malley attended the session and asked the panelist several questions during a robust question and answer session with the audience.