Carroll’s Drug And Violence Awareness Expo Continues To Grow

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The Drug and Violence Awareness Expo will return to the Shipley Arena for the third year running on Thursday, April 27, cementing the event as a key investment in Carroll County’s portfolio of crime and drug overdose prevention efforts.

The 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. event will feature presentations on drug addiction, recovery and domestic violence, information exhibits from the Carroll County Health Department and other agencies. There will also be demonstrations by the Carroll County Sheriff’s Office K-9 unit; a simulated drunk driving experience; and, new this year, a water rescue team.

That’s according to Joe Tabeling, chairman of the Business Education Committee at the Carroll County Chamber of Commerce, which sponsors and organizes the expo. Even those seminars and presenters who have come to the expo in the past, he said, will be presenting new information.

“It’s constantly changing and constantly evolving as these issues grow,” Tabeling said. “I think the more public awareness there is on these subjects, the better chance we have of getting a handle on it.”

More than 2,000 Carroll County Public Schools health students in eighth grade and high school will attend the expo, primarily in the morning hours, Tabeling said, while the last hour will feature a screening of the FBI and Drug Enforcement Administration-produced documentary on opioid abuse, “Chasing the Dragon.”

Tabeling has been pleased to the point of surprise with the positive response the expo has received since he proposed the idea of holding it three years ago, and the way it has grown since then. Both Carroll County State’s Attorney Brian DeLeonardo and Sheriff Jim DeWees, each of whom will be attending this year’s expo, were excited to participate from the beginning.

“It’s great to see the business community getting involved with this,” DeLeonardo said. “Drug addiction impacts not only families, but businesses … whether it’s employees or people stealing or, of course, their own families as well.”

“I think it’s gone really well and progress over the last couple of years bigger and better,” DeWees added. “The only way we can attack the issue we are having in the county is through education.”

Carroll County had 69 drug and alcohol overdoses in March, 36 of which involved heroin and four of which were fatal.

Over the past two years, the Sheriff’s Office, the Health Department and DeLeonardo’s office have all made efforts to get into Carroll County Public Schools more often to educate young people on the risks of drug use, but DeLeonardo said there is still a role, and an expanding one, for the expo.

“That’s really the thing, we’re trying to attack this issue from every angle,” he said. “The more ways we can deliver the message, anything we can do to get this message out, we want to do.”

DeLeonardo’s office, in partnership with the Carroll Media Center, recently held a contest for middle and high school students where they designed a radio or video public service announcement about addiction.

“We will be announcing the winners at the expo; the top three submissions will have their PSA produced and we will award cash prizes,” DeLeonardo said. “Middle school students will have a spot produced for the radio, and the high school students will actually have that produced with actors and everything — a message created by kids, for kids.”

The Drug and Violence Expo has garnered support at the state level in response its message. Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan’s administration provided a grant of $20,800 to make the 2017 expo possible, according to the governor’s press secretary, Shareese DeLeaver-Churchill.

“As a strong proponent of victims’ rights and a leader in the fight against the heroin and opioid crisis, the Hogan administration is committed to raising awareness and connecting our citizens with the resources and support they need,” DeLeaver-Churchill wrote in an email. “The upcoming expo is just one effort among many to help accomplish these shared goals.”

The chamber has also heard from people in other Maryland counties, interested in learning how they, too, can launch an expo like Carroll’s, according to Tabeling.

“We are getting a lot of exposure, which is great,” he said, “and with the recognition by the governor’s office, we just see this thing continuing growing and growing each and every year.”

Source: By Jon Kelvey / Carroll County Times

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