As we focus our health care resources and collective energy fighting against the COVID-19 pandemic and its shutdown of our communities, schools, businesses, and churches, another pandemic continues unabated.

Talbot Goes Purple returns this month to raise awareness of drug addiction.

This is the fourth year for the campaign that launched in 2017 in response to the opioid addiction crisis.

The effort is a partnership between the Tidewater Rotary Club and the Talbot County Sheriff’s Office, with additional support from Talbot County Public Schools, Saints Peter & Paul School, the Mid-Shore Community Foundation and others, including The Star Democrat.

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, past Talbot Goes Purple live events and in-school student clubs will not be happening as usual this year. But organizers are seeking to keep the annual ‘Go Purple’ campaign going this year through virtual events to continue educating our community about the addiction crisis.

“We need to keep educating our families that misusing prescription painkillers will lead to addiction,” said Talbot County Sheriff Joe Gamble.

We agree with the need to continue this important community campaign. While addiction may not be leading headlines this year, that does not mean the issue has not gone away.

In fact, social isolation and the economic and public health stresses of the coronavirus have made it difficult for some wrestling with past and present addictions.

The addiction epidemic has definitely not subsided. According to a message in the Maryland Opioid Operational Command Center report for the first quarter of 2020 from Executive Director Steven R. Schuh, there was a slight statewide increase in intoxication-related deaths from Jan. 1 through March 31 of this year compared to the same period in 2019. Opioid-related deaths were reportedly up 2.6%. Schuh wrote that the numbers, which include “substantial increases in both cocaine-related and alcohol-related deaths” are evidence “of a substance use crisis that has been worsened by societal upheaval.”

“What we can understand is the near certainty of an accelerated substance use crisis as we emerge from the coronavirus pandemic. We can also understand that now is the time to redouble our focus on solutions, both established and innovative. Everybody involved in addressing the opioid crisis — every clinician, every advocacy group, every concerned parent, and every citizen — needs to renew their dedication to addressing this problem,” Schuh wrote.

Knowledge is definitely power in the fight against addiction — knowing the risks of illicit drugs and opioid-based prescription medication, knowing the signs of addiction and knowing where to turn to get help for yourself or a loved one. Websites like TalbotGoesPurple.org, TalbotHealth.org, and www.cdc.gov/drugoverdose offer important information and resources.

In joining the Talbot Goes Purple effort, The Star Democrat plans to run educational stories about awareness and prevention on the front page of our print editions and online throughout September. We also will be sharing daily messages from Talbot Goes Purple on our Facebook page.

We hope you will join us in supporting the Talbot Goes Purple campaign to raise awareness about and fight against the opioid addiction epidemic.

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