Health Officers Share Strategies for Confronting Substance Abuse

A panel of county health officers presented on successful programs and new county efforts to combat substance abuse.

L to R: Anne Arundel COunty Executive Steve Schuh, Lori Brewster, Pam Creekmur, Larry Polsky and Rebecca Hogameir.
L to R: Anne Arundel County Executive Steve Schuh, Lori Brewster, Pam Creekmur, Larry Polsky and Rebecca Hogamier.

Pamela Creekmur, the health officer for Prince George’s County, started off by giving audience members the latest overview on substance abuse across the state. The grim reality is that despite increased efforts to curb the addiction crisis, overdose deaths continue to rise.

Somerset County Health Officer Lori Brewster presented the county’s pilot Community Outreach for Addictions Treatment (COAT) program. Through COAT, peer support specialist partner with law enforcement to reach out to at risk individuals. The pilot, a multidisciplinary effort, helps bridge a gap between overdoses and the need to get people into treatment. The pilot has been in place for 5 weeks and has resulted in 47 contacts with 16 people linked to treatment through the program.

Calvert County Health Officer Larry Polsky discussed the county’s programs to reach the special needs populations of pregnant women and children. The Healthy Beginnings Infant Morbidity and Mortality Reduction project is a multidisciplinary approach to providing pregnant and postnatal women and babies with substance abuse treatment coupled with comprehensive women’s health services. Conservative estimates of total savings from the program between the prevention of unintended pregnancies and reductions from babies born with substance abuse related complications is $4.6 million. Dr. Polsky also presented on the county’s school based behavioral health services, which operates in two middle schools and one high school. The program has served 116 students and they hope to expand to all middle and high schools in the county in three years.

Rebecca Hogamier, Washington County’s Behavioral Health Director, concluded the panel with a presentation on their medication assisted treatment program in their jail using extended release Naltrexone (Vivitrol). The program’s goals are to reduce recidivism and overdoses and to increase engagement and retention in community-based behavioral health programs. She also presented on Washington County’s recent grants to launch the state’s first day reporting center. The center will operate as an alternative to incarceration and provide individuals with treatment and reentry support services. Ms. Hogameir announced she would be retiring from the health department and will continue to serve the county as the director of the day reporting center.

The session was moderated by Anne Arundel County Executive Steve Schuh who shared some remarks about his administration’s work on substance abuse and the accolades Anne Arundel County has received for their programs on local and national levels.

The 2016 MACo summer conference was held August 17-20 at the Roland Powell Convention Center in Ocean City Maryland. This year the conference’s theme was “Cyber Solutions: Counties in the Digital Age.”