County Executive Steve Schuh directs agencies to use 'all best efforts'
By Saliqa Khan
Anne Arundel County Executive Steve Schuh announced an executive order declaring a County-wide heroin public health emergency and directing all County agencies to use "all best efforts" to eradicate the use of heroin in the County.
Anne Arundel County's executive said he's going to declare a public health emergency as soon as next week in response to the "heroin epidemic" in the region, citing a growing number of deaths related to the highly addictive opioid.
"While we will not win this war overnight, we must act now by taking steps to turn the tide of heroin abuse in our county," Schuh said. "By declaring this county in the midst of a heroin public health emergency, our county departments can shift their resources to address this mounting crisis."
Schuh also announced his intention to introduce, and testify on behalf of, a resolution in the Anne Arundel County Council addressing the heroin epidemic.
Schuh was joined by the Heroin Action Taskforce, a group comprised of government officials whose recommendations will form the basis for the county's Heroin Action Plan.
The group includes Anne Arundel County Police Chief Tim Altomare, County Health Officer, Dr. Jinlene Chan, Anne Arundel County School Superintendent George Arlotto, State's Attorney Wes Adams, Anne Arundel County Sheriff Ron Bateman, and Annapolis Mayor Mike Pantelides, each of whom spoke during the event.
"I'd like to thank all those who’ve given their time to join this effort, especially Mayor Pantelides," Schuh said. "His commitment to working with us on this critical issue will ensure we can attack this problem at every level of government."
Speaker of the House of Delegates Michael Busch also spoke during the event.
Two Anne Arundel County citizens, Ann Youngblood and Eileen Bolotin, also attended the announcement and described how the heroin epidemic has personally impacted their lives. Youngblood lost a son to an overdose. Bolotin is mother of three teenage girls, one of whom is battling heroin addiction.
Schuh was also joined by Victoria Bayless, president and CEO of Anne Arundel Medical Center, who hosted the event.
"We are supportive of the county's urgent efforts to put policies in place to improve intervention and access to treatment," Bayless said. "Drug and alcohol abuse is rampant in every area of this community. It's a disease just like cancer or heart disease or diabetes. Children, men and women deserve the same compassion, support and care that patients with other diseases receive."
The Taskforce’s Heroin Action Plan, which will include recommendations for expanded treatment, education, and enforcement efforts, is currently being finalized and will be released in mid-February.