Ocean City Today

Opioid abuse fight further funded

Gov. Hogan allocates $22M last week, Worcester County earmarked for some money
By Greg Ellison | Jul 13, 2017

(July 14, 2017) Gov. Larry Hogan, who this March declared the state’s opioid crisis a “state of emergency,” released more than $22 million last week to fight the epidemic, a portion of which will filter directly to Worcester County.

After signing an emergency order earlier this year, Hogan appointed Clay Stamp, who chairs the governor’s emergency management advisory council, to take the lead on establishing local opioid intervention teams to improve coordination between the state and local counties.

Stamp, who was Ocean City’s director of emergency services for 20 years before stepping down in 2004, appointed Worcester County Emergency Services Director Fred Webster as the area lead for the Opioid Intervention Task Force.

“Prevention, enforcement and treatment are the key areas we are suppose to focus on,” Webster said.

Webster said the state funding for fiscal year 2018 is divided into three segments. The first $10 million is part of $50 million Hogan pledged over the next five years to battle opioid addiction. An additional $10 million is sourced from the federal 21st Century Cures Act, which was signed into law on Dec. 31, 2016. Also the Governor’s Office of Crime Control & Prevention is contributing $2.1 million.

“Of the $10 million from the governor’s office, they carved out $4 million to go to individual counties,” he said.

From that pool of funding, Webster said Worcester County is earmarked for more than $91,000.

“There is additional money awarded to different agencies submitted by each county that will be reviewed for funding requests,” he said.

Over the last several months, Webster said, the opioid intervention task force has aligned itself with an array of partners, including law enforcement agencies, health department officials, the state attorney’s office, local mayors or town administrators, and state congressional leaders.

Also on board are Worcester County Commissioner Diane Purnell, County Administrative Director Harold Higgins, County Board of Education COO Stephen Price, and Atlantic General Hospital President and CEO Michael Franklin.

“We’ve had two meetings already and another scheduled later this month,” he said. “There’s been a lot of activity prior to this.”

By the end of March, the Worcester County Department of Health, in conjunction with various local partners, released its Heroin/Opioid Community Response Plan.

“A lot of this work was done prior to the governor’s announcement on March 1 as a result of preplanning,” he said.

The response plan examines prevention and “harm reduction” efforts, intervention resources, treatment options, data management and coordination of current efforts to address opioid abuse.

Webster also highlighted a pair of recent public service announcements promoting local treatment options.

“The two commercials are airing on local TV and the audio is running on Ocean City public safety radio on a continual loop,” he said.

The new effort is pulling together agencies that previously were lacking in communication, Webster said. He also noted that the Worcester County could apply for further funding.

“There is additional money that can be applied for,” he said. “We need to justify what’s spent and get approval.”

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