Substance abuse is prevalent in Howard County. What are we doing about it?

Actually, Howard County is not unusual in the extent of our substance use and abuse. And like everywhere else, addiction follows for too many of us. Whether addiction is to a licit or illicit drug, the results to one’s well-being are much the same.  Given that addicts are from all walks of life, all income groups, all races and creeds, it’s difficult to argue that imprisonment is the best solution. And most folks need help to recover from an addiction. Here’s a primer on addiction and what help is available in the HoCo.

Prevalence of Substance Use in the United States

According to SAMHSA’s [Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration] National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) – 2014 (PDF | 3.4 MB), about two-thirds (66.6%) of people aged 12 or older reported in 2014 that they drank alcohol in the past 12 months, with 6.4% meeting criteria for an alcohol use disorder. Also among Americans aged 12 or older, the use of illicit drugs has increased over the last decade from 8.3% of the population using illicit drugs in the past month in 2002 to 10.2% (27 million people) in 2014. Of those, 7.1 million people met criteria for an illicit drug use disorder in the past year.

The misuse of prescription drugs is second only to marijuana as the nation’s most common drug problem after alcohol and tobacco, leading to troubling increases in opioid overdoses in the past decade. An estimated 25.2% (66.9 million) of Americans aged 12 or older were current users of a tobacco product. While tobacco use has declined since 2002 for the general population, this has not been the case for people with serious mental illness where tobacco use remains a major cause of morbidity and early death.

[The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) is the agency within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services that leads public health efforts to advance the behavioral health of the nation. SAMHSA’s mission is to reduce the impact of substance abuse and mental illness on America’s communities.]

Location hunt underway for county’s first detox center

by Kate Magill (Howard County Times), July 18, 2017 [EXCERPTS]

As Maryland continues its battle against opioid abuse, Howard County is taking steps toward opening its first residential detoxification center, something officials say is desperately needed and overdue.

A team including officials from the county’s health department and the county executive’s office are working rapidly to find an appropriate location to serve the still-growing number of substance abusers in Howard County, said Carl DeLorenzo, the administration’s director of policy and programs. DeLorenzo is heading up the project alongside Howard County Health Officer Maura Rossman, with the goal of choosing a location for the center within the next year, DeLorenzo said.

Emergency Department Visits for Substance Use by Howard County Residents [from presentation to the Howard County Mental Health Task Force by Dr. Maura Rossman, Howard County Health Officer, October 8, 2014]
As the county embarks on its major project, the opioid epidemic continues to take its toll on Howard residents. Between January and June of this year, there were 91 reported non-fatal opioid related overdoses, 87 of which were heroin related, according to data from the Howard County Police Department. There were 26 opioid-related deaths in the first six months of 2017, 23 of which were heroin related, according to the department.

Howard County Health Department [Selected Activities]

  • [The Howard County Health Department] serves as Howard County’s Local Addiction Authority (LAA).  Among other activities, the LAA is coordinating with other providers to secure a full continuum of outpatient SUD treatment services available for Howard County residents. This includes reaching out to providers to determine interest in offering (or expanding) SUD treatment services in the County.

  • [The LAA] identifies and addresses the barriers for those who have private health insurance to assure timely access to affordable services. Provides education to consumers regarding health insurance coverage, including how to access services along the continuum of services.
  • HCHD has an MOU with the Howard County Public School System with the Maryland Student Assistance Program offering assessments, outpatient treatment and referrals for substance use disorders for adolescent.
Reported Substance Use by Howard County High School Students [from presentation to the Howard County Mental Health Task Force by Dr. Maura Rossman, Howard County Health Officer, October 8, 2014]
  • Referrals are made with local outpatient services provides to include (but not limited to) Way Station, Humanim, JAEL, Silverman’s Treatment Solutions, I Can’t We Can, MPB Group, Kolmac Clinic,  Integrative/ Congruent Counseling, and Columbia Addiction Center to facilitate referrals and coordination of care for individuals in need to mental health, methadone, and SUD services.
  • HCHD contracts with Living in Recovery (males & females) and Project Encompass (females) to purchase recovery housing in Howard County. Peer recovery support staff work in different locations including: the Recovery and Wellness Center engaging peers in recovery support activities; Drug Court, Rt. 1 Resource Center, and private treatment providers offering recovery support and referrals to treatment.

Get Help from Howard County Health Department


Call 410-313-6202 to discuss Behavioral Health service options. If help is needed with a substance abuse issue after hours, call 800-422-0009.


Howard County Treatment Resources for Substance Use Disorder (excluding Recovery Services)

Recovery and Recovery Support

Today, when individuals with mental and/or substance use disorders seek help, they are met with the knowledge and belief that anyone can recover and/or manage their conditions successfully. SAMHSA has established a working definition of recovery that defines recovery as a process of change through which individuals improve their health and wellness, live self-directed lives, and strive to reach their full potential.

Model for breaking the cycle of addiction-rehab-relapse (by Living in Recovery, Howard County).

Recovery support is provided through treatment, services, and community-based programs by behavioral health care providers, peer providers, family members, friends and social networks, the faith community, and people with experience in recovery. Recovery support services help people enter into and navigate systems of care, remove barriers to recovery, stay engaged in the recovery process, and live full lives in communities of their choice.

A model of recovery services: Penn North Neighborhood Center, Baltimore

A pioneer in wellness and recovery, Maryland Community Health Initiatives, Inc. (Penn North) was among the first programs in the United States to use acupuncture in the treatment of addiction—starting the first Acudetox program in the Baltimore City Detention Center in 1993. Penn North was the first program in Baltimore City to provide free on-demand recovery support 24-hours a day through the Threshold to Recovery program.

Penn North’s workforce development program provides soft skills training to prepare participants to enter (or re-enter) the workforce and placement assistance to support them in locating, securing, and maintaining living-wage employment. Our supportive housing program provides healthy and affordable housing to 200 men and women in recovery.

Penn North

At the heart of one of Baltimore’s busiest intersections (Pennsylvania and North Avenues) adjacent to the Penn North subway and bus lines, Department of Social Services, DHMH Men’s Health Center and Enoch Pratt Library—Penn North is centrally located at the intersection of the historic West Baltimore neighborhoods of Penn North, Sandtown-Winchester, Greater Mondawmin, and Druid Heights.

The Twelve Steps of Narcotics Anonymous

  1. We admitted that we were powerless over our addiction, that our lives had become unmanageable.
  2. We came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
  3. We made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.
  4. We made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
  5. We admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
  6. We were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.
  7. We humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.
  8. We made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.
  9. We made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
  10. We continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.
  11. We sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.
  12. Having had a spiritual awakening as a result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to addicts, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.
Narcotics Anonymous World Regional Map of Weekly Meetings



It shouldn’t have happened

Fifteen year old Grace McComas committed suicide in 2012. Her story is one of how the Howard County community failed this child and family.  First and foremost, it was a flagrant example of an institution that’s intended to serve the people, putting the administration first rather than the interests of this child and family.  But we all played a role. And we have an opportunity to make it right.

Julia McCready, our guest blogger, is a Howard County Educator with a knowledge and wisdom about Grace’s story.  She posts daily at

Sharing the Story

by Julia McCready (Friday, July 7, 2017)

In the Spring of 2012 the Glenelg High School community was rocked by the suicide of a sophomore named Grace McComas. She took her life in response to a drug-assisted rape by a fellow student and the subsequent cyber-bullying from members of that same community when she spoke out and sought justice.

In a school of approximately 1200 students, how many do you suppose knew what was going on?

How many knew because they were participating in the bullying?

How many knew and tried to help?

How many knew and did nothing?

How many knew nothing at all?

In the time since her daughter’s death Christine McComas has fought to raise awareness of sexual assault, cyber-bullying, and has worked unceasingly to get her daughters complete school records from the year that she died. The response to her efforts has often been disappointing.

Continue reading It shouldn’t have happened

Howard Countians need to pay more attention to mental health

People experiencing an acute or chronic mental illness need to have access to the help they need when they need it. Failure to connect with the appropriate support in a crisis can have dire consequences. And yet, health insurance coverage for mental illness is often inadequate. And while Howard County has a wide variety of behavioral health resources, there are gaps among needed services. 

Howard Countians collectively need to pay better attention to our behavioral health, identifying mental health issues when they occur and obtaining early intervention. That means volunteers should get Mental Health First Aid training (like CPR), agencies need to find ways to collaborate and remove barriers to care, and County government needs to make a bigger commitment to funding programs that plug service gaps.

Leaders of Howard County’s behavioral health system know what needs to be done, outlined here in the plans and advocacy goals of key players. It only requires the will and financial commitment to make it happen.

Continue reading Howard Countians need to pay more attention to mental health