True to his campaign promises, U.S. Rep. David Trone, D-Md., is working to take on the state’s drug problem.
On Thursday, the first-term congressman led a workshop addressing the opioid crisis and what was being done to help at the local, state and federal levels.
He was joined by Lt. Gov. Boyd Rutherford, Washington County Health Department Director of Behavioral Health Services Vicki Sterling, Dr. Michael Fingerhood of Johns Hopkins Medicine and Kevin Roy of Shatterproof, a nonprofit working to fix the country’s drug-treatment system.
“Every one of us has heartbreaking stories,” Trone said to the group of more than 100 at the Washington County Free Library. In 2016, his 24-year-old nephew, Ian Trone, died of a fentanyl-related overdose.
He called it an issue affecting all Americans regardless of political affiliation, age, race or economic class. He praised the leadership in Washington County and said there had been “unvarnished cooperation” in all levels of government on the issue.
Trone also spoke about the criminalization of drug addiction, with America’s disproportionate number of incarcerated residents, most of whom have had contact with drugs, and high recidivism that keeps people in a seemingly unbreakable cycle.
He said all parts of society need to work together to help, including the business sector, in hiring those who have had struggles, and the philanthropic community, which donates much-needed money.
He touted work done by the bipartisan congressional Freshmen Working Group on Addiction and its website endtheaddictioncrisis.com, where people can submit suggestions, comments or questions.
“We need your ideas. We need your questions,” Trone said. “We want to answer [them] the best we can for you because the answers, the solutions, are always with the folks on the front line, the folks dealing with it every day.”
Both Trone and Rutherford spoke on the importance of addressing the stigma relating to addiction and the mental heath problems that often coincide with drug abuse in one form or another.
Rutherford said that when he and Gov. Larry Hogan were campaigning several years ago, everywhere they went, public officials talked about the heroin addiction.
“Virtually every community we went to in Maryland — it didn’t matter if it was Baltimore City, or it was here in Hagerstown or in Cumberland or tiny Hurlock on the Eastern Shore,” he said.
Speaking on his work with the Heroin and Opioid Emergency Task Force, Rutherford said it has designed a multiprong approach of education, prevention, treatment, recovery and a law enforcement component to go after those bringing drugs into the community.