ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, MD - Aberdeen Proving Ground held the second annual National Opioid Crisis Community Summit at the Mallette Training Facility, Dec. 11.

The event, a continuation of the first summit held Sept. 7, 2017, was hosted by APG Senior Commander Maj. Gen. Randy Taylor.

About 300 people in attendance included federal, state, and local officials, medical experts, first responders, emergency personnel and education professionals. The event included presentations from regional and national subject matter experts and working group breakout sessions.

The Surgeon General of the United States, Dr. Jerome Adams, delivered the keynote address, sharing his knowledge about the opioid crisis from a national standpoint. Adams said he was "blown away" to see such a diverse crowd in the audience. He said everyone must work together to confront the opioid crisis head-on.

"This is a defining issue of our generation," he said. "The opioid epidemic is just too important for us to not come together."

He added that as the Surgeon General, he has dedicated a significant amount of time raising awareness.

"This impact is felt across racial, ethnic, geographic, academic and economic boundaries; no one has been spared," he said. "And the cost isn't just paid by individuals or families. We literally risk losing an entire generation and subjecting yet another generation, their children, to life without parents, and without role models."

Adams said his office is working to decrease stigma and ignorance and to educate the country about addiction. The opioid crisis is personal to him, he said, because he has a brother who is serving a 10-year prison sentence in Maryland for crimes he committed to support his drug addiction. Adam said his brother suffered from untreated mental illness and turned to drugs to self-medicate.

"Addiction can literally happen to anyone, even the brother of the United States Surgeon General," he said.

Adams said education is the key to teaching others that addiction is a disease. One of the ways people can intervene, is by safeguarding prescription drugs, and disposing of them when they are no longer needed, he said.

"Don't be the first drug dealer for some other kid out there."

He also addressed the use of Naloxone, a drug used to temporarily reverse the effects of an opioid overdose. He advocates for more Naloxone training.

"We need everyone to understand what Naloxone is, and be able to carry it, because anyone can save a life," he said.

He asked attendees to visit his official website, https://addiction.surgeongeneral.gov/, for further information about opioid addiction. The website has a digital postcard people can share with others through their social network pages.

Taylor thanked community members for their involvement. He said APG's workforce is 94 percent civilians and contractors, and the vast majority live in the communities where the crisis is manifesting.

"This Army is your Army," he said. "And we cannot pretend that the challenges in our community simply stop at our gates."

Taylor said after last year's summit, APG stood up an Opioid Advisory Committee, which works closely with Joe Ryan of the Harford County Office of Drug Control Policy. He said he looks forward to continuing this partnership.

Community involvement

Cecil County Executive Dr. Alan McCarthy and Harford County Executive Barry Glassman provided opening remarks.

McCarthy said he was honored to have the opportunity to network with subject matter experts, to discuss this "crippling" public health issue. More than 90 percent of the inmates in the Cecil County Detention Center are serving time for drug addiction or property crimes associated with acquiring the money to buy the drugs, he said. This problem, he said, is "destroying our society."

"As a county executive I know the tragic consequences addiction has on our citizens," he said. "Addition robs their health, and the lives of the users and valuable resources from society, and more times than not destroys families."

McCarthy said he believes the key to prevention is providing more drug education, for all ages.

Glassman said his administration has made behavioral health and the fight against opioids a top priority. These efforts include the Harford County Crisis Center, a new behavioral health center that will provide 24-hour, seven-day-a-week crisis care for mental health and addiction issues for children and adults.

"The service offered at the crisis center will be a lifeline for Harford County families and will help them along the path to recovery and healing," he said.

Sharing personal stories

Robert Devereux, the assistant director of business development for Ashley Addiction Treatment in Havre de Grace, said he is in long-term recovery and shared his struggle with opioid addiction. Devereux said in order to stop using drugs, he had to change his behavior and his life.

"I believe in the twelve-step [program], a higher power, and meditation was a game changer," he said. "I haven't wanted to drink or get high in a very long time."

Other presenters included Tom Baribeault, president of the Society of Opioid-Free Anesthesia; Dr. Timothy Chizmar, assistant state EMS medical director, Maryland Institute for Emergency Services; Dr. Vinciya Pandian, assistant professor, Johns Hopkins School of Nursing; and Pastor Craig McLaughlin, from the Mount Zion United Methodist Church, in Bel Air, who discussed his late daughter's battle with heroin addiction.

Kirk U.S. Army Health Clinic Commander Lt. Col. Jody Brown, who serves as a liaison to Taylor for APG opioid-related matters, moderated a panel discussion about improving drug education for children and teens. The panel was comprised of Reginald Burke, Maryland Department of Education; Special Agent Shawn Ellerman, Drug Enforcement Administration of Philadelphia Field Division; Dr. Barry Marx, Office of Clinician Engagement for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services; Pandian; and Gigi Rosenblatt, University of Maryland Upper Chesapeake Health System.

Finding solutions as a community

In the afternoon, attendees broke out in working groups to discuss prevention, intervention and treatment. They developed action plans to identify focus areas, in an effort to make progress as community.

Brown said all attendees were encouraged to share information and best practices.

"We have unique medical and drug detection, protection capabilities here on APG that are unparalleled in the nation," she said. "Sharing those resources with the rest of the community, with law enforcement, and other first responders, is just the right thing to do."

New Castle County, Delaware, Executive Matt Meyer, said the summit was very informative, with many subject matter experts in attendance.

"It's extraordinary, we all owe Major General Taylor and the leadership of APG a major thank you for putting this together," he said.

Virgil Boysaw Jr., with the Cecil County Health Department and Drug Free Cecil said APG leadership is "leading the way" in raising awareness about opioid addiction.

"It's needful, they are forcing the conversation, they are bringing the partners to the table they are actually modeling what coalition work is all about," he said.