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



How government and nonprofit services came to be in HoCo

Forty-six years ago, as rural Howard County was being inundated by Columbia, a three-day charrette was held to consider what human service needs should be addressed by government and nonprofit organizations. Organized by the Association of Community Services and Howard Community College, the charrette was attended by some 335 people, including citizens, providers, community leaders, new Countians and old Countians. 

They overcame distrust, suspicions and competing interests to reach consensus on a report that is excerpted here. Many ideas were visionary, others just practical, some misguided. The goals they outlined are a measure of how far we’ve come in nearly half a century, and point to what more we have to do to create the city and county that James Rouse envisioned  – a place that provides for the growth of people.

It all started with James Rouse

In 1969, James Rouse created the Columbia Foundation [now the Community Foundation of Howard County] the first community foundation in the state of Maryland.  He and members of the founding board had the prescience to realize that the new town of Columbia would continue to grow and attract new residents and would have pressing needs for decades to come.

[James Rouse stated], “We have always envisaged bringing into being the coordinating leadership, on a continuing basis, to overlook the quality of life of the city; assert entrepreneurial initiative to bring into being new institutions as required; encourage existing institutions to spread their services to areas not covered or avoid unnecessary duplications”.

[In] 1971, the Foundation awarded its first grant to the Association of Community Services of Howard County to “explore human services needs and possible approaches.”

The Howard County Human Services Community Action Seminar (October 1970 – December, 1971) [EXCERPTS]

by Richard E. Dewey (Editor)for Howard County Association of Community Services and Howard Community College. Partially funded through Program Impact Title I of the Higher Education of Act of 1965 as well as grants from The Columbia Foundation and the Office of Health Care Programs of the Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions. 

Purposes and Goals of the Seminar

Howard County, Maryland faces demographic, social, economic and political strains in the years ahead that are unmatched, perhaps, anywhere in the nation. Until a few years ago, Howard County was exclusively rural in character. . . . Then, within the decade of the sixties, the spiraling increase in land value of the corridor between Baltimore and Washington, D.C. caught up Howard County and attracted the developers of a “new town” they called columbia [sic]. Suddenly, Howard County faced the 1980 prospect of a city of 110,000 in the heart of its pastoral tranquility.

Invitation to the Community Action Seminar, November 19-21, 1971 (compliments of Columbia Archives)

To measure the impact of such an eventuality, one has only to consider the rate of growth involved. At the time of the Seminar, which prompts this report, and only four years after [Columbia’s] founding, there were 16,000 people living in Columbia and 67,000 in the county as a whole. Twelve thousand more residents will pour into columbia this coming year.

How does a rural county absorb that sort of influx? What strains does it impose? What problems does it create? In November of 1970 a small group of County residents began to hold living room discussions aimed at exploring the needs for new and better human services in a growing Howard County. From the beginning, it was clear that the way selected to approach the county’s needs was through a seminar or charrette situation. Consequently, as early as May, 1971 it was possible to outline the goals for such a weekend program as being:

  • To define the meaning of human resources and social services in Howard County.
  • To investigate and inventory the needs of Howard County population for such services.
  • To develop an integrated delivery system to provide such services.
  • To design the evaluation instrument to measure success.
  • Proposed attendees will include representatives from approximately thirty county social service agencies and private organizations, the County Government, educational agencies, and representatives of the so-called “consumers” of Howard County.
Invitation to the Community Action Seminar, November 19-21, 1971 (compliments of Columbia Archives)
Planning for the seminar

Any explanation of the Seminar itself, and the careful planning that led to it, must first make clear three tangential conditions which greatly influenced the shaping of the Seminar.  The first was a universally accepted sense of tension – a dangerous mixture of distrust, misunderstanding and arrogance – existing between the residents of the new town and the residents of the County. No matter what area of concern one investigated, the breech was always there.

From Report of the Howard County Human Services Community Action Seminar, January 15, 1972 (compliments of Columbia Archives)

The second condition was the fresh memory in many minds of a similar charrette conducted in Columbia in January, 1970 [one devoted to higher education]. The successes and failures of that previous experience in many ways shaped the Human Services Seminar.  The third condition was the timing imposed upon the Seminar . . . that several other concurrent events would be stimulated or improved only if planners adhered to the [November] date.

Human Service Needs of Howard County

Advocacy Task Force

Because of the wide dispersion of services available in Howard County and because of the lack of knowledge about these services, it is advised that an advocacy system be established which would incorporate the concept of “ombudsman.”

  • To convene a mini-seminar in each voting district of the County by January 31, 1972. These to serve as two-way communication between Seminar and consumers.
  • To establish a county ombudsman, or advocate with satellite offices.
  • To develop a 24-hour information and referral exchange.
From Report of the Howard County Human Services Community Action Seminar, January 15, 1972 (compliments of Columbia Archives)
Aging Task Force

At the present there is no provision for the housing or care of the elderly — be it boarding, nursing, residential, or otherwise. This has substantially reduced the aged population in Howard County, because anyone requiring one of these facilities must be accommodated outside the County. The point was made that if Howard County carried its proper responsibility for its elderly, it would not only benefit the residents requiring this care – not to speak of their families – but remove an unfair burden on surrounding counties.

  • To develop barrier free, ground level access, to all public buildings, particularly those which provide services to the aging.
  • To develop a shopper service for homebound elderly and/or a mobile store.
  • To develop a special information booklet for the elderly of Howard County.
  • To assist in the creation of a residential environment especially designed for the non self-sufficient resident.
  • To promote special transportation arrangements for the elderly.
  • To provide foster homes for the elderly.
Community Mental Health Task Force

Community mental health services within Howard County have been of a limited nature in the past. There has not been established a community mental health system delivering comprehensive services as outlined under the various Federal guidelines resulting from the Community Mental Health Centers Acts of 1965 and 1963.

Services have essentially been limited to outpatient clinics set up by the health department, and some consultative communications (indirect services) between the mental health clinic staff and staffs of the Public Health Nursing Section and the Department of Education.

  • To provide education programs in the public schools and elsewhere on sex instruction, drug abuse, and family life
  • To promote the establishment of:
    • Halfway houses for runaways
    • Quarterway houses for alcoholics
    • Detoxification and rehabilitation center
    • Family Counselling and Psychiatric care programs
Education Task Force

The general consensus of the group was that no area of need in education was not already being studied or dealt with by some other group within the County.

  • Create a continuing program to train students to serve in student and community government, specifically the County School Board.
  • Create a Black Studies Program for all levels of education in the County.  Increase the number of black teachers to a level commensurate with the County’s black population ratio.
  • Institute programs for the building of skills in human relations, communication and personal growth skills for students and teachers.
  • Make County schools into Community Centers for day long and year round use.
  • Promote the use of non-certified by technically qualified persons as teaching resources.
From Report of the Howard County Human Services Community Action Seminar, January 15, 1972 (compliments of Columbia Archives)
Employment and Poverty Task Force
  • To link vocation education in the county with available and potential job opportunities.
  • To assist a change in local employment practices making them more flexible.
  • To promote among local businesses a more positive attitude towards the hiring and promotion of blacks, women and minorities.
  • To discover and extend more local alternatives in career opportunities for blacks, women and minority groups.
Health and Handicapped Task-Force
  • Develop a sheltered workshop for handicapped in Howard County
  • Provide a more relevant education program for handicapped children within Howard County School System
  • Create a General Hospital for Howard County
  • Attract more physicians to the County
  • Train teachers to relate better to handicapped children
  • Establish program of adequate health care for all regardless of income
  • Change laws to allow physicians to practice in homes and commercial offices
  • Create a barrier-free environment for the handicapped
From Report of the Howard County Human Services Community Action Seminar, January 15, 1972 (compliments of Columbia Archives)
Housing Task Force

The Housing Task Force shared a deep concern about existing substandard housing in Howard County; Complete lack of availability of housing options for low income families; No opportunity for purchase of new housing any where in Howard County for families with incomes below $9,672 for townhouses and $10,152 for a single family dwelling; Limited numbers of subsidized units in the county:

  • To develop a Public Housing Authority in Howard County to provide housing for low income families.
  • Take whatever steps are necessary to obtain rent supplements for low income families.
  • County Council to amend laws to allow for more low cost, low income housing opportunities consistent with metropolitan population.
Transportation Task Force

The lack of a public transportation system in Howard County is a serious handicap to many residents, especially the elderly, the disabled and the poor. Many Howard County residents live in rural areas far from major thoroughfares and lacking the use of a private car and have very limited access to employment, goods and services.

Of equal importance is the fact that the absence of a public transportation system has an adverse effect on the environment. The ever increasing number of singly occupied cars causes further congestion of roads and parking space as well as an increase in the accident rate and in pollution.

From Report of the Howard County Human Services Community Action Seminar, January 15, 1972 (compliments of Columbia Archives)

It should be the responsibility of government to provide for a transportation system which is flexible, multi-faceted, and accessible to everyone. In order to achieve success financially and ecologically, a mass transit system must be convenient and economical for the passengers so that the use of private cars will become less desirable and less practical.

  • To develop a public transportation system easily accessible to all Howard Countians 24 hours a day.
  • Include transportation needs in the General Plan for Howard County
  • Illustrate to County officials that County progress is impeded because the lack of mass transit results in excessive transportation costs for local agencies, businesses and individuals.
  • Publicize the problems and some of the possible solutions.
Youth Task Force

The area of youth covers such a wide span of concerns only the issues which we felt were of the greatest importance were discussed in depth. As a result of our group discussions, we reached these conclusions:

  • Create a County-wide youth advisory commission to assist all governmental units in matters regarding young people.
  • Get more youth representatives on County boards and commissions.
  • Involve more youth in Friendship Exchange programs.
  • Create more recreation opportunities for young people in the County.
  • Eliminate restraints on smoking in the high schools.

Excerpts from the Report of the Howard County Human Services Community Action Seminar, January 15, 1972 (from Columbia Archives)

And what was the view in 2009?

Howard County’s Human Services Master Plan (HSMP) was developed through a partnership of the Department of Citizen Services and the Association of Community Services, with participation from a broad range of organizations and community members. Organized by population group, and covering a wide spectrum of human service issues, the HSMP outlines our community’s aspirations for its residents.

Individuals and families:
  • Are able to meet their basic needs
Children, youth, and families:
  • Are healthy
  • Children enter school ready to learn
  • Children and youth are successful in school
  • Children, youth and families are safe in their homes and communities
Older adults:
  • Maintain optimal mental and physical health
  • Engage in the life of the community
  • Live as independently as possible
  • Are safe in their homes and communities
People living with disabilities:
  • Enjoy the same opportunities as others
  • Have meaningful opportunities for education and employment
  • Are safe in their homes and communities

There is Human Trafficking in Howard County

A man was charged with forcing four women into prostitution in Howard County this week. Kudos to the Howard County Police Department for their targeted efforts to arrest human trafficking. This is my post from a year ago, updated with the latest report.

Howard police arrest Baltimore man at Laurel motel in latest human trafficking case

by Andrew Michaels (Howard County Times), August 2, 2017 [ABRIDGED]

A Baltimore man was charged Wednesday with the human trafficking of four women in Howard and Prince George’s counties following a nearly two-week investigation by Howard County police.

Kamal Germaine Dorchy, 43, faces multiple counts of human trafficking, the police announced. He is being held without bond at the Howard County jail.

This investigation is part of Howard County’s ongoing efforts to stop prostitution and human trafficking. There have been almost as many human trafficking cases this year as there were in all of 2016. Continue reading There is Human Trafficking in Howard County

Human Services delivery in Howard County now enhanced with new Nonprofit Center

Howard County is creating a model of collaboration for the delivery of human services.  The New Howard County Nonprofit Center has opened at Patuxent Woods Drive in Columbia. My post about the plans for the Center is here.  The offices will soon be part of a larger Community Resources Campus when several Howard County government offices move to adjacent buildings. 

The Campus will be a one-stop shop for folks in need of assistance. It is centrally located at Broken Land and Snowden River Parkways, and is on several RTA bus routes. 

Proximity can serve to enlarge the world view among participants and foster innovation, for the benefit of the organizations and the clients. It requires the commitment of the agencies to make it happen, and our encouragement. 

Nonprofit center model comes to Columbia

by Fatimah Waseem (Columbia Flier), April 28, 2017

A vision floated more than two decades ago to bring local nonprofit organizations and human service agencies under one roof is materializing in a small corporate park in Columbia.

A dozen local agencies and organizations have moved into the nonprofit center at 9770 Patuxent Woods Drive, which will serve as their headquarters and as a Continue reading Human Services delivery in Howard County now enhanced with new Nonprofit Center

Current Status of Charter Schools in Maryland

Public Charter Schools have the potential to improve our education of elementary and secondary school students. I’ve learned this from my work the last eight years facilitating more effective financial management of these schools. It is disappointing, therefore, that Maryland/Howard County has made so little commitment to Public Charter Schools.  It is equally troubling that there is not better understanding of  what charter schools are. 

I have found that the agencies operating Charter Schools, like the nonprofit world in general, range from ineffective but well-intentioned, to cutting edge and well-managed. The former schools need to be closed by the authorizer. The latter need to be replicated for the good of all our kids. But there are real obstacles to charter schools achieving their potential in Maryland. Here’s a primer on what Charter Schools are all about.

Continue reading Current Status of Charter Schools in Maryland

National Night Out in HoCoMD Builds Community Partnership

The neighbors on our cul-de-sac in Clary’s Bright Passage, Hickory Ridge, Columbia, Md. are hosting an ice cream social for National Night Out (NNO) on August 2nd. The block party will be great fun, and serve to strengthen our neighborhood with more connections among neighbors.

Howard County Police will also be participating, a great example of community policing (“to protect and serve”). In light of the recent shootings of Cops in Dallas and Baton Rouge, it’s important we thank our First Responders, that they truly get how grateful we are for their protection.

And we need to do our part to establish partnership. Citizens will feel safer, and it makes it more likely a Cop will hear when he or she has screwed up.

There are over twenty other community-hosted parties being organized throughout Howard County. Click here for the local event near you: Continue reading National Night Out in HoCoMD Builds Community Partnership

Howard County’s Latest Effort to End Homelessness

Howard County, Md. recently broke ground on a new facility for homeless persons, the Leola Dorsey Community Resource Center.  It will house the existing Day Resource Center, include 35 apartments, and is based on an increasingly popular model for addressing homelessness called “Housing First.” Here is a primer on the new center and the challenge of homelessness in Howard County, Md.

[This information has been updated with a new HoCoMDcc post, “Assistance to homeless persons enhanced by opening of community resource center“, October 6, 2017]
Continue reading Howard County’s Latest Effort to End Homelessness