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St. Mary’s County offers help; reach out if you’re in need

by Tammy Showalter, Freelance Journalist

Leonardtown, MD- Families are struggling to watch their loved ones deal with the stress induced by everyday life in general as well as the 2019-2020 Covid-19 Pandemic. Families are asking for rehab options and if Southern Maryland is doing enough to meet the need.

Some are turning to alcohol and some to drugs or other substances, much like March of 2017 when Maryland Governor Larry Hogan declared a state of emergency in response to the opioid epidemic. That battle still rages on here in Southern Maryland.

What is happening on our highways lately with a reported four fatal accidents in St. Mary’s County, one due to substance abuse,

The St. Mary’s County Sheriff’s Department has made 117 driving under the influence arrests since January This doesn’t include the Maryland State Police arrests.

Corporal Julie Yingling is a public information officer at the St. Mary’s County  Sheriff’s Office in Leonardtown. She commented via email saying, “anyone taken into our custody after, as a result of an accident goes to the hospital to be assessed and treated prior to being taken to the detention center only if they are charged at that time [of the accident].”

She stated that not everyone that’s taken to the hospital is charged with a crime or charged at the scene, but charges could come later. She said not every arrest for DWI [driving while intoxicated] is the same and each has mitigating factors  

“Not everyone suspected of a DWI is charged on the scene as the individual has a right to elect to take a breath test or blood test’” Yingling said via email, “ and blood test results are not immediate meaning they could be charged at a later date via a warrant or criminal summons once the results are back. The individual could elect no test which means they will face sanctions from the Motor Vehicle Administration.”

Yingling stated, “Unless someone has been found guilty or sentenced by the court there is no time sentenced or imposed to serve for simply being arrested and charged with a crime. Anyone physically arrested is taken to the detention center and taken before a commissioner to determine probable cause, bail, etc.  We [Law Enforcement] cannot remand or commit anyone to rehabilitation. That is at the discretion of the courts and the specific sentence imposed.”

Holly Meyer, the public relations coordinator and marketing director for MedStar St. Mary’s Hospital said before the pandemic flooded our headlines, we were focused heavily on the nation’s opioid epidemic.

Meyer stated via email, “There has been a lot of work to help elevate this national crisis, and MedStar St. Mary’s Hospital has been offering increased support and help for those at risk of substance abuse.”

“The hospital regularly works closely with the local law enforcement in many ways,” Meyer also stated. “If a patient was arrested prior to coming to the hospital that patient will remain in the custody of the arresting body upon discharge as well. 

“We provide the health care needed to the patient as well as any information that may help connect the patient with drug or alcohol abuse resources in the community.”

In the fall of 2019, MedStar St. Mary’s was awarded a two-year grant for the startup of the Screening, Brief Intervention and Referral to Treatment (SBIRT) program to operate out of the Emergency Department (ED). This program employs three Peer Recovery Coaches as well as an Opioid Overdose Survivors Outreach Program (OSOP) Peer Recovery Coach. Meyer provided stats on the first phase of the program which included April and May.

  • 2,183 unique adult patients were seen
  • 2,025 SBIRT screens were completed
  • 255 positive screens were reported
  • 106 brief interventions and follow-ups were conducted
  • 51 linkages to treatment were made

July 1, 2020 is when the programs second grant year started.

“The implementation of the SBIRT program to the ED has been well received not only by patients but associates as well, ”Katie Peacher, BSN, RN, CEN, SCRN,  interim director of the ED said.

“It provides an opportunity to make a personal connection with patients at risk for substance abuse and has led to many patients receiving referrals for treatment, including a mother and son who both decided to receive treatment and are doing well as a result. The OSOP Peer Recovery Coach also has given many patients a support person within the community that they continue to reach out to going forward.”     

Those struggling here in Southern Maryland can go to 211md.org for more information on finding a behavioral health provider. You can also text your zip code to 898-211 for a quick response.

Telehealth is also an option as those services have been expanded even as the pandemic is still at the forefront of our minds. www.bha.health.maryland.gov is another site that is fairly easy to navigate and provides detailed information for finding the therapists that fits your unique needs.