Dr. Meena Brewster, the county’s Health Officer and director of the St. Mary’s County Health Department, is calling for community-wide action to address substance abuse prevention and control.

“Our community needs to come together to address this issue. Our health care providers are working hard to treat those who seek help with their substance abuse problem, but this community problem goes beyond just treatment,” stated Brewster. “We need to also identify ways to prevent substance abuse from starting and to teach families and others how to detect it early on before it advances. We need to improve the ways people can access care, navigate the health care system, and stay clean for the long-haul. This is a chronic issue and we have to look at it as a community issue, not just something ‘someone else’ is dealing with.”

Parents and families are encouraged to attend the upcoming Drug Summit for Parents: An Open Discussion on Pills and Heroin in St. Mary’s County, scheduled for Friday, March 7 at 6:30 p.m. at the Hollywood Volunteer Fire Department, to learn more. The Drug Summit for Parents is organized by several community partners, including the St. Mary’s County Sheriff’s Office, Walden Sierra Behavioral Health, and the St. Mary’s County Department of Aging and Human Services.  More information about the summit is available at www.HealthyStMarys.com/DrugSummit.          

Dr. Brewster is calling for community organizations and residents to voice concerns and be part of the solution through St. Mary’s local health improvement coalition, the Healthy St. Mary’s Partnership. This coalition has identified “Behavioral Health” as one of its top priorities – this includes substance abuse prevention and control as well as mental health.

The Partnership is in the process of developing collaborative community action that can prevent substance abuse and decrease the burden of substance abuse in St. Mary’s County. The next meeting of the Healthy St. Mary’s Partnership’s Behavioral Health Action Team is scheduled for Jan. 27 at 5:30 p.m. in MedStar St. Mary’s Hospital’s Outpatient Pavilion Health Connections Meeting Room. More information on the Healthy St. Mary’s Partnership is available at www.HealthyStMarys.com