County anti-heroin boss gets handle on new roleFred Webster sees himself coordinating with agencies and providers of programs
(April 21, 2017) Fred Webster, the county’s emergency services director and Worcester’s first heroin czar, has been familiarizing himself with his new responsibilities and the work that’s already been done to combat the crisis following Gov. Larry Hogan’s state of emergency declaration last month.
The governor dedicated $50 million to the cause over five years, and tapped former Ocean City Emergency Services Director Clay Stamp to oversee the effort, which then trickled down the organizational chart to the local directors.
Webster is not and hasn’t been working in a vacuum however, and said he is now familiar enough with the ongoing efforts of law enforcement, the health department and citizens’ groups to explain how he will be functioning in his new role.
“My role is to coordinate resources and gather information with local groups looking to stop the opioid crisis,” Webster said.
That coordination is going to come in the form of biweekly reports, which are then fed to the Maryland Emergency Management Agency to produce monthly statewide reports and could be used to develop a plan.
“We’re tracking things like the number of police and emergency responses to overdoses, and feed that data into the opioid operational advance center at MEMA,” he said. “From there we’ll create a plan not just for Worcester, but the entire state, while looking for best practices and developing educational programs to bring back to the committees and counties.”
It’s a methodical approach to an affliction that doesn’t have many rules.
“There are a lot of really good programs out there from law enforcement, the Worcester Warriors and the health department. We’re in pretty good standing as far as programs we’re working on to put out to the county,” Webster said.
“Other counties are doing the same. I’m anxious to see what the other counties are doing,” he said. “We’re evolving as we go.”
And, for now, the governor’s funding is paying for it all.
“We may end up doing some stuff locally, and in fiscal 2019 I might have to look between my budget and the health department’s budget to do more,” Webster said. But the big thing, he said, is to get the board of education involved.
“We need to educate children and young adults on the things they should look out for. A lot of people were educated on 9-1-1 because of the schools,” he explained. “The kids would take it home and reinforce it to the parents.”
Webster said he would continue to apply the lessons learned in emergency management to this new epidemic.
“We all worked well together planning for disasters — hurricanes, bird flu, Zika virus — this is just another instance of us all working together. We developed really good, sound plans, for natural disasters, hazmats, etc., and this becomes another area of focus,” he said.