(June 28, 2019) At a first glance, it looks like an ordinary young adult’s bedroom.
However, it’s no ordinary room. Signs of drug abuse are everywhere and just waiting to be found: soot, foil, burnt spoons, and needle caps, just to name a few.
Members of the public had the opportunity to see these and other indicators of drug use in the makeshift room contained in the RALI Cares educational trailer on Tuesday afternoon outside the Ocean Pines branch of the Worcester County Library.
“We hope that the public takes away the knowledge and the skills they’re going to need to be able to identify any potential problems and it gives them resources also that they can reach out to if someone that they love or care about is battling this epidemic,” Sheriff Matt Crisafulli said.
RALI stands for the acronym, Rx Abuse Leadership Initiative of Maryland, which is a multi-agency organization dedicated to ending the opioid crisis. There were 2,000 deaths from opioid overdoses in Maryland in 2017, according to RALI Maryland.
RALI Maryland, the Code 3 Association and the Worcester County Sheriff’s Office partnered to bring the event to the area.
“We thought this was an important resource to bring here,” Sgt. Nate Passwaters, of the sheriff’s office’s criminal enforcement team, said. “We had this opportunity and we obviously took advantage of it.”
Organizers stressed the importance of education and prevention by shedding light on key signs of drug abuse.
“It takes a whole community to beat this epidemic, and we want to make sure our public has as much knowledge, and they have the education, and the tools that they’re going to need so we can continue to be unified in our approach to combat this terrible epidemic,” Crisafulli said.
Tim Sponaugle, heroin coordinator for the Worcester County Sheriff’s Office Criminal Enforcement Team, said along with the sheriff’s office, members of the county’s health department and the Worcester County Warriors Against Opiate Addiction were also present during Tuesday’s event.
Sponaugle added the sheriff’s office is just one of the many departments working to fight the heroin and opioid crisis.
“Will we ever defeat it? I’m not optimistic that it will ever be totally defeated, but to decrease it, and save lives, and get the information out there is important,” Sponaugle said.
Sponaugle also stressed that the public needs to understand that prevention is key.
“I hope they take away from it that everyone in the county is working to decrease this issue to really address this issue, and I think prevention and treatment are important parts of it,” Sponaugle said. “Prevention it’s so much easier when you don’t start.”
While these types of programs highlight work done with community stakeholders, officials in various agencies and local government, Sponaugle said he believes the involvement should be countywide.
“We’re all stakeholders,” Sponaugle said. “The community, every person that lives in the county I believe is a stakeholder because [the opioid crisis has] been described and it is an epidemic, not just here but across the country so … it’s going take all of us together to address this issue.”
Frank Oliver, a former law enforcement officer and a representative of the Code 3 Association, said the room’s set-up is as authentic as possible. He added his organization used information from prior investigation findings and recovering addicts.
Organizers agree taking a proactive approach is crucial to making people aware of some of the signs associated with drug abuse.
“We’ve had parents come through that have lost children, and said if they had known what the signs were, their child would possibly still be alive,” Oliver said.
Law enforcement officers added parents should also be aware of a change in their child’s behavior, paraphernalia and misplaced items including spoons.
“Because this addiction and heroin so insidious, it’s important that we get the word out and show people if you go down this path this is what can happen,” Passwaters said. “But, there’s signs and things that we can educate people, parents especially [can] pick up on. Maybe a lot of that can be alleviated.”