State, local officials announce first regional anti-heroin campaign ‘I Wish I Knew’ encourages community dialogue

Regional Anti-heroin Campaign
Chester
July 2015

State and local officials on Wednesday, July 1, 2015 announced the first-ever Mid-Shore opioid misuse prevention campaign, at a kick-off event held at the Chesapeake Heritage Center in Chester.

Heroin and prescription drug use is a growing problem on the Mid-Shore, with 53 recorded opiate-related deaths here last year. Across the state, last year 464 people died from heroin and 316 died from prescription pill overdoses. In the first half of 2014, heroin-related deaths rose 46 percent with 310 deaths across the state, according to the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. Additionally, 7 percent of local high school students have tried heroin – a statistic nearly twice the state average.

‘I Wish I Knew’ is an awareness campaign that offers information and local resources on heroin and prescription pills. The campaign also encourages community participation on social media and online at www.IWishIKnewMidShore.org.

“Please, take time to follow the campaign – encourage others to ‘share’ on Facebook and follow on Twitter,” said Talbot County Sheriff Joe Gamble, who spoke at the campaign kick-off event. “You, your family and your loved ones need you to learn more. It takes all of us to turn back the tide of opiate abuse. Take time today to join the conversation!”

The campaign runs through Sept. 30, is funded through SAMHSA and the Maryland Behavioral Health Administration and includes Talbot, Caroline, Dorchester, Kent and Queen Anne’s counties. It is the first regional, coordinated effort of its kind.

“I am pleased to kick-start a campaign that is near and dear to my heart and that is bringing light to the drug problem we face here on the Mid-Shore,” said Queen Anne’s County Commissioner Jim Moran, who also spoke at the kick-off event. Moran advocated for expanded access to Suboxone, a medication used to treat opiate addiction, and called for mandatory drug education in local schools for parents and students.

The campaign includes unprecedented media reach through television, local movie theaters, billboards, radio stations and print publications. Ads include information on the signs of opiate abuse, the signs of an overdose and what to do in an overdose.

“This is an unprecedented opportunity for our community,” said Kelley L. Allen, owner of Soul Candy Media, which created the campaign. “Nearly everyone has been affected by heroin or prescription pills – we need to keep talking about it and working to change our culture.

“This campaign not only offers invaluable information, but also encourages community participation. We hope everyone goes to our website www.IWishIKnewMidShore.org and joins the conversation with an ‘I Wish I Knew’ statement. What you tell us will help us work toward reducing misuse in our community.”

Gayle Jordan-Randolph, deputy secretary for the state’s Behavioral Health Administration, and Tim Dove, director of addictions for the Caroline County Counseling Center, also spoke at the event.

Officials in attendance included Lt. Tim McDonald, barrack commander for Maryland State Police Centreville; state Del. Steven Arentz, R-36; Betsy Hamilton, representing state Del. Christopher Adams, R-37B; Denise Lovelady, representing U.S. Rep. Andy Harris, R-Md.-1st and Meg Butler, representing state Rep. John Mautz IV, R-37B.

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