Anne Arundel Co. community, leaders gather for International Overdose Awareness Day

GLENN BURNIE, Md. – Dozens impacted by the heroin and opioid epidemic gathered on Thursday night for International Overdose Awareness Day.

According to Anne Arundel County Police, as of early August, there have been 684 overdoses and 88 fatalities in the county alone.

“We have developed programs and resources to help combat addiction but we cannot do it alone,” said police in a press release.

County police, fire, Department of Health, State’s Attorney’s Office, Sheriff’s Office, and numerous state and county government officialsattended a ceremony at Arundel Christian Church hosted by Recovery Anne Arundel ROSC (Recovery Oriented Systems of Care) at 7 p.m.

They were joined by dozens of those battling addiction, overcoming addiction, and those who lost loved ones to addiction.

That group also included law enforcement. Sheriff Ron Bateman says he currently has three close family members addicted to heroin or other opioids.

“It has just rocked our world turned us upside-down, I’ve been stolen from, lied to as my wife has,” says Sheriff Bateman.

The ceremony included a slideshow of those who died from overdoses, stories from loved ones, and stories of hope.

James White is one of 120 people that utilized the “safe station” program and walked into a police department or fire station since April 20 to ask for help.

“IĀ felt like I didn’t have anything left I was desperate,” he says. “I thank them for my life today without them I don’t think I’d be standing here.”

According to police, the international day originated in Australia when two community workers hosted a local event and distributed silver ribbons to anyone who wanted to remember someone who died of an overdose.

It’s now a global event where worldwide, thousands of people of fatal overdose victims reflect on those who have been lost.

Anne Arundel County Police say the goal of the event is not only to remember those people but to also raise awareness that this is an issue that affects mainstream society and any overdose is preventable.

“We’re not here to lock people up we’re not arresting our way out of this problem,” says Lieutenant Ryan Frashure. “We’ve said from the beginning this is an epidemic and this is going to be a huge fight. We’ve said from the beginning this is going to be a marathon, not a sprint.”

In addition to the safe stations, Lieutenant Frashure says they’ve developed a number of pilot programs including a youth activities program and they are working on getting D.A.R.E. back in schools.

“It’s really important for us to get to the youth and try to educate,” he says. “We think that’s going to be key.”