This week has been designated by the White House as an awareness week for the heroin and opioid epidemic facing our nation. The focus is on those who have lost their lives to the epidemic as well as to support those recovering from the addiction. The Obama administration is looking for $1.1 billion from Congress to address the epidemic.
In Cumberland, those of us in health care, law enforcement, EMS, the legal community and public health are well aware of the epidemic. In early August, WMHS sponsored a summit on the topic with the above-listed groups. We took the opportunity to understand the issues facing each other in this crisis and to learn what we can do to better support each other. Due to the success of the summit, we agreed that we would continue to have the summit on an every-other-month basis. We also decided to add members to the group from the local Board of Education and the Dental Society as well as a local pharmacist.
The impact of this epidemic is widespread in our community. We have had over 30 deaths since January; we average just about an overdose a day in our ED. The great majority of crime in our region is directly attributable to this drug addiction, and the epidemic continues to put an undue burden on our community in so many ways.
Enhancing community awareness was determined to be an area where our summit group could make an impact. Everyone pledged to ensure such awareness related to this epidemic. Hopefully, the President’s campaign will serve as an impetus to generate awareness nationally as so many communities like Cumberland are dealing with this horrific problem.