As heroin and opioid-related deaths rise across the United States, one Montgomery County community took a big step Monday afternoon to combat what state leaders have called a catastrophic epidemic.
From January to June of this year, 1,325 Maryland residents had died of overdoses, outpacing 2017 when 1,179 people had died of overdoses in the same time period. More than 1,100 of the 2018 deaths were attributed to opioids, according to the Maryland Department of Health.
On Monday, county and state officials broke ground on a 37,682-square-foot facility tabbed to replace an aging Avery Road Treatment Center in Rockville and provide rehabilitation services to Marylanders struggling with addiction, a service that could potentially save thousands of lives, County Executive Ike Leggett said.
“This community is not immune to the devastation caused by the nationwide opioid epidemic, and the services offered here at the Avery Road Treatment Center are a key component of our work in making treatment available to Montgomery County residents.”
The existing Avery Road Treatment Center was built in 1991 and officials in attendance said it has run its course. From falling ceiling tiles and wild animals entering through holes in the walls, the facility’s mission to provide top-tier addiction treatment isn’t being met, despite workers’ best efforts.
The new facility, though, is expected to turn the tables.
When completed, the facility will provide 64 residential beds for nonhospital detoxification and substance abuse disorder treatment. It is designed to have minimal impact on surrounding forest and will feature high-efficiency mechanical plumbing and electrical equipment.
Treatment services at Avery Road are administered to adults with substance abuse disorders by the Maryland Treatment Centers through a contract with the county’s Department of Health and Human Services. Treatments are designed to accommodate various needs, such as homelessness, medical conditions like HIV and more, officials said.
Patients can self-admit or can be referred by hospital staff or law enforcement.
The new facility, expected to cost $15 million and be completed in 2020, was made possible through a public-private partnership between the Maryland Department of Health, Montgomery County and Potomac Healthcare Foundation Ltd.
County Council member George Leventhal said the new Avery Road Treatment Facility could change the way people view and talk about addiction.
“This facility will send a very strong message that addiction is a public health issue. It should not be a criminal justice issue,” Leventhal said.
Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, who lost a cousin to a heroin overdose, attended the groundbreaking ceremony and showered county and state officials with praise. The Republican governor, who is running for re-election in the Nov. 6 general election, reminded attendees Monday’s groundbreaking wasn’t the first step the state has taken to combat the heroin and opioid “epidemic.”
In March 2017, Hogan was the first governor in the country to declare a state of emergency due to opioid use and related deaths in the state. He convened a task force, chaired by Lt. Gov. Boyd Rutherford, intended to “create a plan to attack this emergency,” according to the task force’s website.
In addition to those efforts, Hogan said the Avery Road Treatment Center is imperative to reducing and stopping the opioid crisis.
“We want to do everything in our power to help restore hope and put those in need on a path toward healing and recovery,” he said. “Once complete, this Avery Road treatment center will provide … the safe haven and the second chance that so many of our citizens desperately need.”