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  •  Recovery Over Dinner, along with the International Overdose Awareness Day candlelight vigil, brings attention to the need for unity in the fight against the opioid epidemic.
    Recovery Over Dinner, along with the International Overdose Awareness Day candlelight vigil, brings attention to the need for unity in the fight against the opioid epidemic.

Recovery Over Dinner Highlights Progress, Persistence In Opioid Epidemic

Zach Sparks
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July 12, 2017

As of July 5, 594 opioid overdoses had been documented by the Anne Arundel County and Annapolis City police departments in 2017, 131 more than the number reported at the same time in 2016 and 401 more than 2015. And those are just the ones that elicited a law enforcement response.

Those numbers highlight a growing problem that has faced, but not deterred, law enforcement officials.

“We knew a long time ago when we started fighting this epidemic so aggressively that we were in a marathon, not a sprint,” said Lieutenant Ryan Frashure, director of media relations for the Anne Arundel County Police Department. “Luckily, with the relationships and partners we have worked so hard to establish, we are built for the marathon.”

Many of those partners from the health care and law enforcement communities gathered at The Reserve at Two Rivers on July 11 for Recovery Over Dinner. Sponsored by Recovery Anne Arundel, the event highlighted treatment resources and addressed the hurdles standing between Anne Arundel County and the finish line.

Although the event was held after the Pasadena Voice went to print, Frashure spoke candidly about the crisis.

Among the strides made by the county is the implementation of Safe Stations, a program that establishes local fire and police stations as 24/7 havens that offer detoxification resources and medical assessments. If further medical issues are discovered, the person is transported to a medical facility.

Since its inception on April, Safe Stations has verified the immediate need for such a program. “Safe Stations has been a great program providing resources for over 55 individuals that have had the courage to ask for help,” Frashure said in late June.

Alongside law enforcement officials on July 11 was sportscaster Keith Mills. Known for his contributions to WBAL and 98 Rock, Mills made headlines in 2006 when his battle with prescription medication reached a tipping point. In advance of Recovery Over Dinner, Mills talked about first taking prescription meds for sports injuries in 2004.

“I started taking medication to alleviate the pain, but as I took more, it escalated out of control,” Mills said.

He functioned for a few years without his colleagues or family knowing about his problem, but eventually he sought help from his ex-wife and his WMAR-TV coworker at the time, Scott Garceau.

“The power it has not only physically but psychologically was nothing I had encountered before,” Mills said.

Garceau stood by Mills’ side as he informed his then-employer of the problem. WMAR-TV graciously gave Mills time off from work while he entered Father Martin's Ashley Treatment Center – now known as Ashley Addiction Treatment – in Havre de Grace, Maryland.

Mills thought he was past his drug dependency problems, but an unexpected encounter in 2006 proved otherwise.

“I wasn’t even using the medication when I got arrested,” Mills recalled. “I went to my neighbor’s house to ask her about getting her trees cut down. … I saw the bottle on her table and picked up the pain medication. I knew she wasn’t home, and five minutes later, I had officers in my house because they had me on video camera.”

Mills was checking into his second rehab, this time at Crossroads Centre Antigua, when he learned WMAR had fired him.

After a month-long stay at Crossroads, Mills began his stint on house arrest and ultimately got a second chance professionally, this time with WBAL-TV 11.

“People ask me all the time, ‘Do you blame the doctors? Do you blame the pain management people?’” Mills said. “I don’t blame anybody. If there’s any blame, it’s on me.”

Frashure said the success stories, like Mills’, need to be shared so that people learn about the resources available in Anne Arundel County and so they are not afraid to ask for assistance.

People can also attend an International Overdose Awareness Day event at 7:15pm on August 31, as people congregate at Arundel Christian Church (710 Aquahart Road in Glen Burnie) for a candlelight vigil to honor lives lost and pay homage to first responders and heath care providers.

Frashure acknowledged the importance of that event and Recovery Over Dinner, which yielded the opportunity for the community to unite.

“We are supporting this dinner to say thanks and give credit to those community partners who realize that this is not just a law enforcement issue, it's an issue for our entire community,” Frashure said. “… Lastly, we are attending the dinner to support and congratulate Keith Mills on his road to recovery. He has been instrumental with raising awareness and showing the world that no one is immune to falling victim to opioid addiction and that recover is possible.”

Mills has partnered with Anne Arundel County to work on the Not My Child campaign and teach youth about the perils of addiction. He also shoots down misconceptions whenever possible, hoping that more awareness will bring Anne Arundel County, and all of Maryland, closer to finishing “the marathon.”

“A lot of people think if you are addicted, you are not mentally tough. It’s just the opposite,” Mills said. “Addicts are some of the toughest people I know. Will doesn’t beat it; education beats it, and understanding of it. You really have to know what you’re dealing with. Addiction is a nasty, nasty thing.”


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