Anne Arundel Co. to fight opioid crisis with ‘Safe Stations’

WASHINGTON — Anne Arundel County and the City of Annapolis are trying a different strategy to fight Maryland’s opioid crisis: the “Safe Stations” program.

At a Thursday news conference in Brooklyn Park, leaders announced that all police and fire stations in the city and county have been designated “Safe Stations,” places where people fighting heroin or opioid addiction can begin the recovery process any time of day.

At the station treatment starts with a medical assessment; those in need of immediate medical help will be sent to the hospital. The county’s Crisis Response Warmline will work with the person to find them the most appropriate services.

Any illegal drugs, needles or other paraphernalia brought to the station will be relinquished there. Police will be notified only so that those items can be properly disposed.

“We were made aware of a similar program in Manchester, New Hampshire, and thought that it would work well here,” said Anne Arundel County Fire Chief Alan Graves.

Treatment, not punishment is the program’s priority.

“We’re talking about giving an amnesty moment to a person who’s struggling with something that they can’t beat themselves, and they need a helping hand,” said Anne Arundel County Police Chief Tim Altomare.

Annapolis Mayor Michael Pantelides called the program a “groundbreaking alternative” to jail time for those struggling with addiction.

“We need the help of each and every member of the public to let everyone know that these resources are available and that there is help,” said County Executive Steve Schuh.

“There is hope. Don’t give up.”

So far in Anne Arundel County this year, there have been 35 deaths and 354 overdoses from opioids. That’s 100 more overdoses than the county had at this time last year.

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Michelle Basch

Michelle Basch is a reporter turned morning anchor at WTOP News.

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