DUNDALK — It’s no secret that substance use disorder — also called addiction — is rampant in East Baltimore County. From alcohol to opioids, there is a high need for recovery community support and harm reduction based services for people who use drugs in the area.
In 2017, Maryland Department of Health reported an increase for the seventh year in a row in the number of drug- and alcohol-related intoxication deaths. In the state, these deaths reached an all-time high of 2,282.
The Department of Health in its 2018 report said the numbers represented a nine percent increase over the 2,089 deaths in 2016.
“However,” the report noted, “this increase was substantially less than the 66 percent increase that occurred between 2015 and 2016, which was the largest single year increase that has been recorded. The number of intoxication deaths has more than tripled in Maryland since 2010.”
The Avenue News, The Dundalk Eagle and the Dundalk Chamber of Commerce have partnered with One Voice Recovery Community Center to provide space the past week for a recovery coach training in concert with the Department of Health and other partners. We are committed to doing our part to encourage community health, and we’re proud that there are harm reduction and recovery options in the area.
One of the most active nonprofits in the area is One Voice Recovery Community Center.
Established in 2012, the nonprofit organization is part of On Our Own, which provides comprehensive services for several types of individual and community needs. One Voice is a recovery-focused organization on Holabird Avenue in Dundalk, but serves all of East Baltimore County.
The hours for One Voice are 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. On Our Own Inc. uses the same space, but focuses on mental health rather than substance use recovery.
“Our mission is to promote recovery through peer mentoring, remove barriers to recovery and encourage hope, optimism and healthy living in a safe environment,” said One Voice’s assistant executive director Sherica Dilworth. “The most important thing we do is offer hope that recovery is possible.”
Dilworth herself is a recovery success story. In six short years, she has grown in recovery and risen to one of the top positions in her organization. She recently traveled to New York to learn more and witness first-hand harm reduction outreach.
As many of our readers know, I am also a person in long-term recovery from substance use disorder (addiction). I have been clean and sober since April of 2013, and have become a vocal advocate for recovery and harm reduction based advocacy. Like Dilworth, I am proud to be in recovery, and worked as a peer advocate in both clinical and community-based settings.
“The stigma that is associated with recovery is that we are lazy, unintelligent and unconcerned,” said One Voice employee Diana Anthony. “[People think] we are always looking for handouts and we will never change. We can change it by bringing awareness and education to the community at large to dispel these stereotypes. Get to know us. You might like us. We are all more alike that we are different.”
Later in the summer, One Voice will host their second annual Overdose Awareness Day event on Aug. 31. “We will have a special focus on family support for those who have lost a loved one to overdose,” said Dilworth.
In 2018, more than 40 people were trained to administer life-saving naloxone, an opioid antagonist that can reverse an opioid overdose. “We are hoping to do that again this year,” she said. “We will have resources for families and individuals. We are planning several community cleanups and have educational and socialize opportunities throughout the year.”
Last weekend, One Voice and the Baltimore County Harm Reduction Coalition hosted a community cleanup on Dundalk and Holabird avenues. Using gloves and special containment, they picked up four needles along with a huge helping of trash. If you saw people wearing yellow shirts doing good for the community, you can thank One Voice — and recovery!
“Our peer-delivered services aim to help people initiate and sustain long-term recovery while gaining overall wellness through education, workshops and resource identification,” said Dilworth about her organization. “We offer volunteer opportunities. In addition, we offer support to families affected by addiction. We have a warm-line where people can call and get support and learn about recovery resources relevant to them or their loved ones.”
Earlier this month, the recovery organization hosted their first first Healing Hearts meeting — a grief support group for lost who have lost a loved one to overdose. They also hosted a Memorial Day barbecue full of “food, fun, music and games.”
One Voice offers 12-step meetings at noon on Mondays (Narcotics Anonymous), Wednesdays (Alcoholics Anonymous) and Fridays (MARA).
“We have other recovery-related groups throughout the day focusing on trauma and relapse prevention,” said Dilworth. “We also offer trainings and workshops throughout the year. We have an ongoing Wellness Recovery Action Plan training, Mental Health First Aid, anti-stigma workshops and more.”
For the housing insecure, One Voice provides referrals to outside agencies such as Helping Up Mission, Healthcare for the Homeless and Prologue Inc. — but they are strictly a recovery-focused organization. Dilworth knows there is a huge need for many community services, but her organization focuses on reducing the harms of and promoting recovery from substance use disorder.
“We have received donations of food and toiletries from time to time, and we distribute it when we can,” she said. “We provide a safe, comfortable place for people to go. Unfortunately, we are not equipped to meet their many needs.”
Dilworth said local churches are a “big help,” providing meals on an almost daily basis. But there is more the community can do to help.
“We can all help as a community by advocating for a shelter in the Dundalk area,” she said. “Offering a kind word, getting to know someone’s story and recognizing that they are are a human being, regardless of their circumstances, can really make a difference as well.”
People are often hesitant to talk about their struggles with substance use, and seeking help can be paralyzing and anxiety-inducing. Peer support such as that found at One Voice is a key bridge to recovery for many.
“I understand,” Dilworth said. “I’ve been there before. It’s a scary decision when a person is on the fence about whether to get to help. It’s the fear of the unknown. A person may think, ‘At least I know what to expect when I am getting high.’”
Peer support is about getting to know that person as an individual, building a rapport and trust. What’s important to Dilworth is “sharing stories of recovery in hopes that the once hesitant person chooses to walk through their fears and find their own recovery story on the other side.”
Other members at One Voice also speak to the hope of recovery.
“Recovery is important to me because I want to be a productive member of society,” said Kimberly Sicone. “I want to be able to participate in life, have friends. Life gets better. Relationships improve. And I am able to participate in life.”
Eddie Tucker says that recovery, to him, means having a safe place to be.
“Recovery is important to me because I am able to keep up with my doctor’s appointments and keep my health up,” he said. “I have been able to get a house and can watch TV. I don’t have to worry about being homeless. One Voice provides me a safe place to go to meetings.”
And take from this writer and editor — recovery is possible. And worth it.