Monday, March 21, 2016

A Unique Collaboration between Law Enforcement and Seniors in St. Mary’s County

An alarming number of people died in St. Mary's County in 2008 as a result of drug overdoses. One person was too many to lose to drugs, and St. Mary's County had lost 17. Discovering this sort of disturbing trend was exactly the reason the Sheriff's Office had instituted COMPSTAT meetings. Under COMPSTAT, the Sheriff's Office holds weekly meetings, to review reports and statistics gathered during the week to identify and address crime through the use of targeted enforcement.

In this case, Sheriff Tim Cameron decided to create a separate division of Vice/Narcotics, which was formally combined with the Criminal Investigations Division. Vice Narcotics immediately went to work as a newly independent division with a directive to strategically focus their efforts on this emerging issue. Several detectives were assigned to positions within the ‘Drug Diversion Unit’ of the Vice/Narcotics Division. Their daily task was and continues to be pharmaceutical diversion. As a result of their efforts, they successfully decreased the amount of overdose deaths to eight the following year.

Captain Daniel Alioto states, “Through our experience, we know that heroin addiction does not begin with heroin. Addicts begin abusing prescription medications such as Oxycodone or Percocet, commonly prescribed painkillers.”

The detectives began to carefully screen Emergency Petitions which are completed by deputies on scene for their direct relationships to overdoses. A deputy completes an Emergency Petition when they encounter a person in mental crisis or as a result of an overdose. This critical information alerts detectives to current trends in the community, and the process remains a fundamental part of the ongoing effort to eliminate drug abuse.

 “To be successful, it’s imperative we provide accurate information to the community regarding drug abuse and continue to be consistent on a grassroots level,” states Captain Alioto.

As a result, of the Sheriff's outreach program, a somewhat unique partnership has developed between the Sheriff’s Office and seniors in St. Mary’s County. Not many people tend to link senior citizens and drug misuse, but seniors play a more key role in the prevention of drug misuse than one might imagine. Last week, at a seminar sponsored by the Department of Aging & Human Services, Captain Alioto addressed the problem.

Captain Alioto told the concerned citizens gathered at the Northern Senior Activity Center that they could play an essential role in reducing drug abuse, merely by properly disposing of any unwanted medications they had lying around the house. Alioto told his stunned audience that, “One Oxycodone pill that is 30 mg. can be sold on the street for $30.”

By the end of the seminar, seniors had turned in more than 2,200 pills and 11 controlled substance liquids. This seminar was just one of several events planned in partnership with other agencies throughout the year. Such cooperation between citizens and the Sheriff's Office is a vital effort in the fight against opioid abuse, keeping surrendered drugs out of the hands of addicts and pushers forever. To date, nearly 800,000 unwanted medications, 70% of which are controlled dangerous substances, have been destroyed through efforts of the St. Mary’s County Sheriff’s Office partnership with the community.

Sheriff Cameron and the men and women of the Sheriff’s Office are committed to reducing the drug epidemic by educating the community. In addition to their in-house work, the Sheriff’s Office has also established outreach programs, fostering partnerships with St. Mary’s County Public Schools, Walden, the St. Mary’s County Health Department, and the Department of Aging & Human Services, as well as with federal agencies and others.

For concerned citizens, the Sheriff's Office offers 24/7 medication collection at their headquarters, located in Leonardtown. Sheriff’s Office deputies will also pick up unwanted medications from the homebound on April 30, 2016. Sheriff’s Office deputies will also pick up unwanted medications from the homebound on April 30, 2016. Residents wishing to schedule a pickup should call Sarah Miller, St. Mary’s County Department of Aging & Human Services Community Programs & Outreach Manager, at 301-475-4200, ext. *1073, or


Captain Daniel Alioto presents an attendee with a medication lock box she won through a door prize raffle at the presentation. Medication lock box provided by the St. Mary’s County Department of Aging & Human Services.