On a rainy winter night, experts and community members gathered at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Waldorf, Maryland to discuss opioid addiction education and prevention. The rector of St. Paul’s, the Rev. Maria Kane, helped arrange the forum in order to bring awareness to the opioid crisis facing her community. Messaged as a forum to “end the silence,” community members came to discuss a topic that is not always so easy to talk about.
Rev. Kane revealed that it is hard for her to see such a stigma around drug overdoses, and that some people in Waldorf’s small-town community have found it difficult to acknowledge the opioid issue all together.
When asked further how families of victims have been coping in her community, Kane responded, “with shame.” She then explained that the stigma surrounding opioids compounds the tragedy. Loving families unnecessarily suffer in silence, too ashamed to reveal the problem. Kane stressed the importance of changing perceptions.
Yet when it comes to the opioid epidemic, there is nothing shamefully unique about the affected families in Waldorf. Devastated communities, small and large, across the United States are facing unprecedented levels of drug overdoses due to the opioid crisis. In 2016 alone, there were over 64,000 drug overdoses that led to deaths. To put that number in perspective, only 58,000 American soldiers died in the entire Vietnam War.
The forum aimed to change these negative perceptions, starting out with a viewing of the documentary, Playing With Fire, which describes the state of opioid abuse in Charles County, Maryland. Afterward, local specialists proceeded to give insights on how exactly opioids abuse was affecting the area.
John Filer, Chief of Emergency Services in Charles County, sought to dispel the notion that these individuals taken hostage by opioid abuse are just “stereotypical junkies.”
Filer asserted, “This can happen to anybody.” Pointing to a graph behind him, Filer showed that victims of opioid overdose ranged from 2-year-olds to 100-year-olds. “Any of us could be victims.”
Echoing Filer’s statements, Dr. Richard Ferraro, a medical director in the area, advised it will take a community effort to combat the opioid epidemic.
Health Officer, Diana Abney, MD, concluded the night with a training on how to use the life-saving nasal spray, Narcan, a spray specifically designed for victims overdosing on opioids.
While much of the night shed light on some of the dark realities that lay ahead, the forum was intended to be a “night of hope” for the people of Charles County.
The Rev. Maria Kane concluded, “I did see certain people I didn’t expect would be there.”
While an issue as large as the opioid epidemic can seem overwhelming at times, coming together and acknowledging the problem marks an important step for the people of Charles County.