CHESTER — Amid nearly one hundred Queen Anne’s County residents gathered at the Kent Island Volunteer Fire Department Thursday, Sept. 5, the QAC Goes Purple campaign officially got underway.
The county’s Drug Free Coalition, along with the Queen Anne’s County Sheriff’s Office, the Queen Anne’s County Board of Education, and county commissioners all spoke about the importance of getting the message out about the perils of opioid addiction.
“This is gratifying because if you really want change, you have to get the community involved,” said Warren Wright of the Queen Anne’s County Drug Free Coalition. “We have all the county and educational agencies onboard, but to have the civic organizations asking to help is great. Hopefully this gets people learn how to deal with those in the throws addiction and that it’s a disease.”
Wright went on to say outreach efforts continued with a presentation to ninth-graders at Queen Anne’s County High School as they screened the film put together by public speaker Chris Herren.
Also introduced to the public was the latest member of the sheriff’s office drug enforcement team, a young, black Labrador Retriever named Boss who is both a friendly ambassador for students and drug-sniffing dog ready for patrols.
The initiative entered its 19th year with the evening’s official kick-off and according to Queen Anne’s County Sheriff Gary Hofmann, his department has seen less overdoses this year compared to 2018.
“Warren Wright and County Commissioner Jim Moran found the funding for Boss,” said Hofmann. “He’s warm, fuzzy and kid-friendly, but he’s going to be very aggressive in our fight against narcotics in our own community. We’re really trying to keep the fight that’s going on since we could see a spike in overdoses at any moment. But we want to see a continuation of the momentum we have.”
Eric Johnson, emergency management planner for the Special Ops Division of the Queen Anne’s County Department of Emergency Services, also invited the public to purchase their tickets to the Haunted Trap House at www.hauntedtraphouse.org open from Oct. 24-26.
The October tradition started in 1989 and has been revived to tell the full story of opioid addiction, legal troubles that often follow, and the long road of recovery once treatment commences.
“It’s terrific that not only do we have our elected officials behind this effort, but it’s spread through most of Maryland, all of Delaware and Pennsylvania in just three years. To feel the community supporting this is tremendous,” said Mike Arntz, community liaison for Congressman Andy Harris (R-Md-1st).
QAC Goes Purple is based upon THP Project Purple, an initiative of The Herren Project, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit foundation established by former NBA basketball player, Chris Herren, that assists individuals and families struggling with addiction.
While opioid addiction is commonly associated with illegal drugs, QAC Goes Purple reports more than 20 percent of people prescribed opioids misuse them. On average nationally, 175 die daily from heroin and prescription painkiller overdoses.
“Four years ago when I got involved in the Drug Free Coalition, there was a room half-full with people, but now those meeting are standing-room only,” said County Commissioner Jim Moran. “It’s great to see that many people care. Tonight we have county (government) agencies, the faith-based communities, and the education community coming together.”
Students are also at risk for opioid addiction with an estimated 5 percent of Queen Anne’s County High School students trying heroin.
Nationwide, approximately 2,500 teens abuse prescription pain killers for the first time daily. Additionally, 650,000 painkiller prescriptions are dispensed daily nationwide.
“This message is life-changing and statistics from the opioid epidemic don’t really represent the school age group,” said Dr. Andrea Kane, superintendent of schools. “They may come from families where someone has passed away from an overdose or struggling with addiction. They have to come to school dealing with that and with this program, they can see how to make better decisions.”
Kane added that partnerships with community organizations to receive help from volunteers and other members of the public keep students drug free.