The first local screening of 'Chasing the Dragon', a documentary about opioid and heroin addiction, proved to be an eye-opener for the more than 230 members of the community who attended. The 45-minute documentary was shown on Tuesday, October 18, 2016, in conjunction with a forum jointly hosted by the St. Mary's County Sheriff's Office and the Southern Maryland Young Marines Unit. The forum was part of an ongoing educational effort by law enforcement and community agencies trying to stem the tide of opioid and heroin abuse.
'Chasing the Dragon', a joint production of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), was created in order to raise awareness about heroin and opioid abuse in the United States. The documentary contains several case studies of people who either became addicted to opiates themselves or had family members who were addicted. Members of the State Attorney's Office for St. Mary’s County, the FBI, the DEA and the Attorney General’s Office, also spoke at the forum on behalf of their respective agencies.
Following those presentations, local panelists, including St. Mary’s County Sheriff’s Office Vice/Narcotics Commander Capt. Alioto, St. Mary’s County Public Schools Superintendent Scott Smith, St. Mary’s County Health Department Health Officer Dr. Meenakshi Brewster, and CEO of Walden Dr. Kathleen O’ Brien, discussed partnerships among law enforcement and community agencies, drug abuse statistics and provided information on the scope of the local heroin epidemic.
Capt. Alioto stated, “It never gets any easier for a deputy sheriff standing in someone's living room, searching for the right words to tell a family member when their loved one has died. A death that stems from a drug overdose is extremely difficult. As parents we hold on to hope, lean on our faith, and pray that this time it will be different. For every person we educate on the deadly consequences of opioid abuse, we may be saving another family, and for us, the men and women of the Sheriff’s Office, this is exactly why we will continue to identify trends, tactics and ways to connect with each segment of the population.”
Prior to the screening, Laura Webb, Recovery and Support Director for Walden, told attendees, “Heroin and opioid misuse is not glamorous or harmless. We need your help to inform our communities about its true nature—much of which we will see in the film this evening. We need the help of community members who are concerned enough to make a difference. Your attendance here today is a sign of our shared concerns and joint commitment to that goal.”
As part of the outreach effort, the forum included tables of resources and other information made available to attendees. In addition, each person who attended the event received a copy of the documentary and was encouraged throughout the presentation to use the video as a tool to start neighborhood discussions. As Ms. Webb reminded them, “one of the biggest parts of getting help for people already suffering and ending the epidemic is educating those around us.”
Sheriff Tim Cameron thanked the members of the public who attended the forum and gave special recognition to the Young Marines for their drug reduction efforts. “They are the recipients of the DEA’s prestigious Enrique “Kiki Camarena” award for their work as a unit in promoting Red Ribbon Week and spreading the prevention message...through peer to peer education and community awareness.”
Master of the ceremonies Laura Webb concluded the event by saying, “You don’t have to be sainted, like Mother Teresa or Nelson Mandela or Archbishop Desmond Tutu to change things. Ordinary people with lives that go up and down and around in circles can still contribute to change. While this marks the end of our event, the work continues.”
Afterward, St. Mary’s County added a unique feature to the event by offering Overdose Response Program (Naloxone) Training. The training was hosted by the St. Mary’s County Health Department and led by Dr. Brewster. Each person who underwent training left the session armed with a Naloxone kit. “The response for the training was overwhelming – every seat was filled that night,” said Capt. Alioto. “Overall the event was a complete success and the only downside was that our Naloxone training was filled to capacity and there were so many more attendees looking to participate.”
The St. Mary’s County Sheriff’s Office thanks the Young Marines for their co-sponsorship of the event. They also thank local stakeholders St. Mary’s County Public Schools, Walden, the Health Department, and St. Mary’s County Department of Aging & Human Services for their continued support.
Sheriff Cameron extends A special thank you to speakers State's Attorney Richard Fritz, St. Mary’s County; Special Agent in Charge Gordon B. Johnson, Federal Bureau of Investigations, Baltimore Office; Supervisory Special Agent Ken Abrams, Drug Enforcement Administration, Washington Field Office; United States Attorney for the District of Maryland, Steven J. Hess and Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Keri Borzillero, United States Attorney for District of Maryland for taking time to speak with St. Mary’s County residents and for their continued support.
Last, but certainly not least, the Sheriff’s Office extends appreciation to our community stakeholders – the attendees. We have embarked on an effort to educate our communities about the effects of drug abuse, in the hope that people of all ages – especially young people – will think carefully for themselves about where drug misuse can lead them. Thank you for adding your voice to ours; together we can build a healthier, safer, community.