Last fall, Brandon MacMurphy was homeless and addicted to heroin.
Today, the 24-year-old is working on his recovery and is enrolled in a drug rehabilitation community program.
“I am loving life and I’m grateful to be here,” MacMurphy said.
MacMurphy shared his story of addiction and recovery as part of a panel for “Not My Child,” a seminar for parents about the dangers of opioids and the best methods to prevent addiction.
The 90-minute seminar, sponsored by the Anne Arundel County Office of Constituent Services, was held Aug. 10 at Crofton Library.
A small gathering of parents, educators and public officials attended the event.
Among those who attended was Jessica Lundeen, wife of Master Sgt. David Lundeen who is stationed at Fort Meade.
“I’m just scared of drugs and alcohol,” she said. “It scares me for my child.”
Lundeen said she came to the seminar because she wanted to be educated about the dangers of opioids for the sake of her daughter Abby.
The 13-year-old attends Crofton Middle School.
“I’ve never seen anyone who was addicted to drugs,” said Abby who also attended the seminar. “It’s worse than I thought.”
In 2015, Anne Arundel County Executive Steve Schuh declared heroin a public health emergency for the county.
“The health concerns of addiction do not discriminate,” Nancy Schrum, executive director of the Anne Arundel County Office of Constituent Services, wrote in an email after the event. “All families are targets. Parents need to understand the pathyways to addiction.”
The seminar’s panelists were Anne County State’s Attorney Wes Adams; Lt. Thomas Scott of the county fire department; Capt. Jeffrey Adams of the county police department; Jen Corbin, executive director of the Mobile Crisis Response Team at the Anne Arundel County Mental Health Agency; and Caitlin Hall of the Anne Arundel County Department of Health.
In addition to the officials, panelists also included Ann Youngblood and her son Kyle, family members of a young man who died from a heroin overdose.
The panelists discussed the warning signs and symptoms of opioid addiction and its consequences, as well as the county’s response to the health emergency.
Link To Prescription Drugs
Youngblood and her 10-year-old son Kyle shared their family’s loss of a loved one due to a heroin overdose.
“Follow your gut instincts,” Youngblood told the audience. “If you feel somethings’s wrong, something’s wrong. Look into it.”
MacMurphy said his heroin addiction began with smoking marijuana and drinking alcohol at age 16. He later was exposed to prescription pain killers in high school when they were prescribed for a sports injury.
After college, an associate introduced MacMurphy to snorting heroin and he was hooked.
Hall said parents should look for changes in their child’s behavior and social circle as indicators of an addiction. A sudden drop in grades, isolation and frequent changes in friends can be the warning signs of drug use, she said.
Hall said researchers have found that an adolescent’s brain develops until age 25. The use of drugs in high school and college can be harmful because the brain is still growing and is vulnerable to addictive substances.
An addiction to heroin is now most commonly the result of a misuse or abuse on prescription pain killers such as Vicodin, Percocet and OxyContin.
Hall advised parents to keep their prescription medications out of the reach of children, and to warn their children not to take prescription drugs that belong to their friends.
She also encouraged parents to dispose of their unused or expired prescription medications at local pharmacies that often provide trash bins for consumers.
Corbin and Wes Adams said they have visited middle schools in the county to spread the message about the dangers of alcohol, marijuana and opioids.
Adams said that high-schoolers are surprised to learn that marijuana may be laced with cocaine.
Teenagers don’t understand that teens who sell drugs are not their friends — they’re out for the money, Corbin said.
Getting Help For Addiction
In their research, Corbin and Adams asked middle and high school students to think of three people — including one adult — who they would call if they had good news.
Corbin told the students that those three people are who they should call if they or a friend is in trouble because of drugs.
Wes Adams is working with the county’s police and fire departments to help people who are addicted by encouraging them to go to a county “safe station.”
About 120 fire departments and police stations in the county are designated safe stations, where those addicted to drugs can get help, a free medical assessment and access to treatment. The safe stations are available 24/7.
Fort Meade Community Policing Officer Melita Jefferson is working to bring “Not My Child” to Fort Meade.
“Just because we live in a gated community does not mean that it can’t happen here,” said Jefferson, who attended the seminar in the spring at her daughter’s middle school.
“I’m a parent and I don’t want this to happen to my child,” she said. “All parents at Fort Meade feel the same.”
Jefferson said the seminar noted that opioids are a problem in Laurel and Pioneer City and Jacob’s Meadow in Severn, communities that surround Fort Meade.
“It easily can happen here,” she said. “Teachers, parents and counselors, we all have to pay attention.”
Samson Robinson, the prevention coordinator at Fort Meade’s Army Substance Abuse Program, said opioid misuse is currently not a problem among service members, Department of the Army civilians or their family members.
“We’re trying to make sure that it doesn’t happen here,” he said.
Robinson said he visits the installation’s Teen Center, Youth Center and the Child Development Centers to educate young people about the dangers of tobacco, alcohol and marijuana.
Fort Meade Police Chief Thomas Russell said opioid misuse has not come up on his radar, but educating the Fort Meade community as a prevention tool can only benefit the installation.
“If the community and our partners are aware,” he said, “we can do all we can to prevent it.”
“Not My Child” Resource List
The Anne Arundel County Office of Constituent Services has created a resource guide for families interested in learning more about opioid addiction or are seeking help for a loved one.
This brief list includes resources at Fort Meade and in the county. For the complete county resource guide, go to aacounty.org.
- Fort Meade Army Substance Abuse Program: 301-677-7121
- Behavioral Health Clinic, Kimbrough Ambulatory Care Center: 301-677-8895.
- The Substance Use Disorder Clinical Care Division, Kimbrough Ambulatory Care Center: 301-677-8149.
- Anne Arundel County Department of Health, Adolescent and Family Services: 410-222-6784
- Anne Arundel County Department of Health, Adult Addiction Clinic: 410-222-0100
- Anne Arundel Mental Health Agency — Crisis Response System Staff: 410-729-8473
- Families Anonymous: 443-607-8204