PHOTO RELEASE: Lt. Governor Rutherford Hosts First Maryland Stop Overdose Strategy Regional Town Hall in Western Maryland
ANNAPOLIS, MD—Lt. Governor Boyd K. Rutherford today hosted the first regional town hall meeting for the Maryland Stop Overdose Strategy at Allegany College of Maryland in Cumberland. Lt. Governor Rutherford was joined by Opioid Operational Command Center (OOCC) Executive Director Robin Rickard and Maryland Department of Health Deputy Secretary for Behavioral Health Dr. Aliya Jones.
During the town hall meeting, Western Maryland residents shared their experiences of how the opioid crisis has affected their lives, their families, and their communities. Attendees also had an opportunity to learn more about the Maryland Stop Overdose Strategy, or “Maryland SOS,” the Hogan-Rutherford administration’s strategic campaign to address critical needs that have arisen as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Seventeen months ago, we were not sure of how much life would change, and we still cannot say the true impact COVID-19 will have on our physical, mental, and emotional health,” said Lt. Governor Rutherford. “It is clear, however, that the impact of the pandemic will be significant and long-lasting, especially for individuals who are living with substance use disorders.”
Western Maryland experienced a 46% increase in deaths from opioid overdoses, with Allegany County experiencing a 108% increase in opioid-related deaths of any county in Maryland.
“We chose Cumberland as the first site for a Maryland SOS town hall because of the spike in overdoses and deaths in this region in the past year,” said Lt. Governor Rutherford. “Through this data, we can clearly see the need not only for this conversation tonight, but for immediate action through the Maryland Stop Overdose Strategy.”
Maryland SOS seeks to leverage nearly $10 million in grant funding, input from community members during regional town hall meetings to better understand substance use disorders, and address critical needs of Marylanders during the opioid epidemic.
“Through the Maryland SOS town hall series, Marylanders from across the state can make their voices heard,” said OOCC Executive Director Robin Rickard. “We want to hear directly from people about what they are seeing in their communities. Each region has unique challenges, and the solutions that work in one region may not work for everyone.”
Maryland SOS also seeks to leverage settlement funds awarded to the Opioid Restitution Fund to support innovative and proven strategies to reduce opioid-related overdoses and deaths. Established in 2019, it receives funding from ligation and legal settlements against prescription opioid manufacturers and distributors.
The next Maryland SOS regional town hall meeting will be held in September on the Eastern Shore. Updates will be available on the OOCC website and Facebook page. The OOCC can be contacted by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.