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Germantown Area Police Commander Speaks at Event Held to Raise Awareness of Heroin Addiction and Rec

Commander David Gillespie of the 5th District – Germantown was among the speakers at the “Lights of Hope” event held in Rockville on Saturday night. The “Lights of Hope” recovery celebration raised awareness for the need for greater school-based programs to support County students with substance use and other behavioral health disorders.

During the event on Saturday night, Rockville Town Square vibrated with the chatter of people, noise from the restaurants, and sounds from the band, Just Stones. In the midst of the bubbling activity of everyday life, a message was emphatically impressed on everyone present — end the stigma of addiction by heightening community awareness and celebrate recovery.

According to the Montgomery County Opioid Misuse Prevention Program Community Needs Assessment (2015), 17 percent of 12th graders reported misusing prescription opiates, while 7.4 percent of students over 17 reported heroin use. A recent study (JAMA Psychiatry, 2014) on heroin users found that the average age of first use is 22 years old, although 75 percent were already addicted to or used prescription opioids first. Many parents agree that drug and alcohol dependence often starts in high school, and some report as early as middle school.

After mentioning that he is a father of three, Commander Dave Gillespie of the 5th District Montgomery County Police spoke, “We can’t control what our children do. We can’t control the decisions they make. We also understand that this could happen to anybody. So we know, and we learned over the years that arresting people who are addicted to drugs is not the answer. We have worked with other people in social service agencies and continue to work together to be able to provide compassion and support to give people treatment.”

“Today we had an overdose. Last night we had an overdose,” continued Gillespie, “In fact, in this County we’ve had about 90 something overdoses this year that were nonfatal and about 30 that were fatal. That’s a change. The fire department is using NARCAN at least 30 times a month, if not more. This is something that impacts all of us.”

Parents of kids who are struggling or have struggled with drug or alcohol dependence were participating in the “Lights of Hope” recovery celebration.

Donna Evans, mother of five, says not enough is being done in the schools to alert parents to the dangers of prescription opioids, “I get the flyer alerting me to be on the lookout for head lice every year, and what to do if I see the signs. But my daughter has lost nearly a dozen friends to opiate overdose in the past few years and the school isn’t sending home any information on the dangers of prescription painkillers. Our kids are not dying of head lice.”