Montgomery Co. police: No ‘cure-all’ to opioid crisis

ROCKVILLE, Md. — Montgomery County police officers and firefighters continue to see the devastation that opioid addiction and overdoses can wreak — and the latest information shows what first responders are up against.

There were 60 fatal opioid-related overdoses last year, according to a report presented to the County Council’s Public Safety Committee Monday. So far this year, there have been 31, as well as 91 nonfatal overdoses — a 44 percent increase over last year at this time.

Council member Marc Elrich said after the briefing, “There’s no clear path forward. I don’t see anything that shows there’s a silver bullet that’s been discovered someplace else.”

Police stressed that when it comes to people who are using drugs and who overdose, their emphasis is on saving lives, not making arrests. Hamill said, “The police department is, for lack of a better term, all in on helping people survive this.” Montgomery County Police Capt. Paul Liquorie explained, “We realize that we cannot arrest our way out of this problem.”

More police officers are getting training in the use of overdose-reversal drugs such as Naloxone, commonly called Narcan. Assistant Police Chief Russ Hamill said the drug can save lives, but it’s not a panacea. “Some people get this idea in their head [that] Narcan is a cure-all — that’s not how it works. There are issues with repeated abusers who are getting Narcan administered over and over.”

Liquorie told the council members that about 10 percent of those treated by the police with Narcan are repeat overdoses. He said the police department has treated one person who has overdosed five times.

Council members asked about treatment access in the county, and Raymond Crowell, chief of behavioral health and crisis services for Montgomery County, explained that wait times of about two weeks remain for those seeking treatment.

After the briefing, Liquorie, asked about the police department’s stance, explained that law enforcement should focus on supply — not demand, which is rooted in the very complicated problem of addiction. “We are looking for the source of these drugs; we’re looking for the dealers — the people who are providing these narcotics, these poisons, to the people here in Montgomery County.”

Kate Ryan

As a member of the award-winning WTOP News, Kate is focused on state and local government. Her focus has always been on how decisions made in a council chamber or state house affect your house. She's also covered breaking news, education and more.

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