In 2014 Talbot County ranked 5th out of Maryland’s 24 counties for self-reported abuse of heroin among high school students (Blue Ribbon Commission, 2014 status report). Data from the Talbot County Addictions Program shows that opiate/heroin use in the county increased 264% between 2010 and 2012 (Talbot Family Network, 2013). Addressing heroin addiction in a meaningful, results driven way, requires a multi-level approach; attacking the issue with community resources is part of that approach.
While working on a group project, four students in the Social Work program at Salisbury University took interest in Talbot County as it is rich with opportunities and resources for individuals facing opiate addiction. Seeking to connect traditional recovery resources with community and non-traditional opportunities for healing, they set out to create empowerment bags to foster these connections. The bags contained vouchers and coupons for healing resources, such as Acupuncture and yoga, which already exist within the community. Recognizing that an important component to recovery includes community reintegration, the students also included vouchers for the YMCA, passes for a game of bowling, a certificate for the movie theatre, as well as several other community connections. In addition, the bags contained self-care products, links to opportunities for creative outlet, as well as opportunities to enjoy the outdoors.
As the spring semester came to a close, the students presented the empowerment bags to Chesapeake Treatment Services (CTS), an outpatient treatment program in Easton. CTS offers short and long term Methadone and Suboxone treatments, which are crucial for helping individuals overcome the physical addiction to opioids. In addition, the clinic provides individual and group counseling as a part of their program to address aspects of addiction that go beyond the physical component. In many cases, however, additional resources are needed. Community awareness and engagement is an important part of the supportive process of helping individuals and families heal.
The current opiate addiction crisis in our state is overwhelming and many community members do not know how to help. The students at Salisbury hope that the process of gathering resources for the empowerment bags helps increase community awareness that they too play an important role in helping individuals on the path towards healing. This in turn will help foster a stronger network of individuals, agencies, non-profits, and businesses who can work together to support individuals on their road to recovery.