EASTON — University of Maryland Shore Regional Health team members, systemwide, wore purple on Friday, Sept. 6, in support of monthlong “Go Purple” campaigns in the health care system’s service area, which includes Caroline, Dorchester, Kent, Queen Anne’s and Talbot counties.

Team members wore purple and posed for photos at the health care system’s three hospitals — UM Shore Medical Centers at Chestertown, Dorchester and Easton — and also at UM Shore Medical Pavilions at Denton and Easton, UM Shore Emergency Center at Queenstown, and the Diagnostic and Imaging Center at Easton. Other practices and team members have organized their own purple days throughout September.

“Our health care system’s strong support in the efforts to reduce deaths and substance use disorders associated with opioid abuse is visible, daily, in the work our emergency departments and behavioral health specialists do,” said Ken Kozel, CEO and president of UM Shore Regional Health. “The ‘Go Purple’ campaigns underway in our five-county region are shining a much-needed light on the opioid crisis. The recent reduction in overdose cases coming into our emergency departments and the statewide reduction in deaths from opioid overdoses show that awareness campaigns — and other community assistance programs that promote and facilitate recovery — are working. There’s still more to do, but we are proud of the progress made to date in our region and we remain committed to this important work going forward.”

Emergency department visits related to adverse effects of opiates to all four Shore Regional Health EDs (Chestertown, Dorchester, Queenstown and Easton) increased from 280 visits in 2014 to 453 in 2015, then sharply increased to 1,141 visits in 2016. Opiate-related visits decreased to 714 visits in 2018.

UM Shore Regional Health convened a regional opioid task force, which began meeting in June 2017, to coordinate and standardize the medical community responses to the rising incidence of opioid and heroin overdose throughout the five-county region. The force is led by Walter Atha, regional director of emergency medicine for UM SRH, and Roger Harrell, Dorchester County health officer. Other representatives include health departments and emergency services, emergency and behavioral health care providers, and nurses and hospital officials.

Since its inception, the task force has addressed a number of issues, including improving opioid and heroin overdose response processes in emergency care settings; identifying and implementing strategies to improve the likelihood of patients’ successful referral to treatment; and sharing data needed to assess opioid and heroin overdose trends, as well as outcomes of emergency medical services and hospital responses to overdose.

Additionally, Recovery for Shore, an ad-hoc network of individuals and organizations providing awareness of recovery from alcohol and drug abuse, and support and encouragement for those on the journey of recovery, has announced a community event in observation of September as National Recovery Awareness Month. Dovetailing with initiatives planned by Talbot Goes Purple, Recovery for Shore will sponsor a free ice cream social, weather permitting, from 6 to 7 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 29.

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