Recently the Maryland Department of Health released preliminary statistics for overdose fatalities through the third quarter of 2018. From January through September of 2018, there were 1,648 opioid-related deaths in Maryland, a 10 percent increase from 2017. In Queen Anne’s County, opioid-related overdoses increased by 140 percent, illuminating the reality that we aren’t doing enough to end the overdose epidemic that is wreaking havoc on our families, friends and neighbors.

I moved to Queenstown after spending 28 years as a district court judge in Tulsa, Oklahoma. During my time on the bench, I frequently observed the flaws in how we treat drug use as a criminal justice problem instead of a public health problem. It was after my move to Maryland that I discovered the Law Enforcement Action Partnership and decided to use my experience to help other public safety advocates see the benefits to changing the way we tackle drug-related issues. As Queen Anne’s County continues to experience rises in opioid-related problems, it’s time to develop a robust local harm reduction program, including syringe services.

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