SALISBURY – Officials in Wicomico County have approved a request for $28,989 to partially fund an opioid coordinator position.
On Tuesday, Lori Brewster, health officer for the Wicomico County Health Department, came before the Wicomico County Council to request additional funding for a full-time opioid coordinator.
According to Brewster, the health department received nearly $116,000 in grant funding for fiscal year 2018 from the Maryland Department of Health to address the opioid issue in Wicomico County.
Brewster said the strategic planning board on the county’s Opioid Intervention Team developed how the dollars would be spent.
She said the funding will be used to disperse naloxone to first responders and community members, to host opioid forums during the month of October, and to hire an opioid coordinator.
Brewster said the coordinator would be responsible for applying for grant funding and working with local law enforcement, emergency services and the hospital to gather statistics that will be used in data analysis.
“We are getting more data locally in Wicomico County than most jurisdictions and we need somebody that can look at that on a daily basis,” she said.
While some grant money has been set aside to fund the position, Brewster requested the county provide the remaining $28,989.
“We just needed a little more funding to flesh out the position,” she said.
Council President John Cannon inquired about the salary.
“Do you know what you anticipate paying for this position?” he said.
Brewster replied that the salary would be dependent upon the individual’s experience and prior employment. She explained that the individual would be paid at the same level if he or she was coming from another state government position.
“It will depend upon both of those,” she said.
Councilman Larry Dodd asked if the position would be filled by October, when the opioid forums are scheduled to take place.
“That would be my goal,” Brewster replied, “but I can’t promise that.”
Cannon acknowledged the importance of the position and the state’s initiative, but questioned the permanence of the position.
“I noticed in the breakdown here you’re already planning for health insurance, retirement, FICA, the whole nine yards,” he said. “Is that because you are planning long term?”
Brewster explained that the position would be needed for many years.
“Our plans are long term because this epidemic is not going to go away in the next few years,” she said.
Brewster said the county health department’s Opioid Intervention Team plans on seeking additional state funding next year and added the coordinator would also be tasked with finding other funding allocations.
“We know we are going to need somebody more than a year,” she said.
The council voted 6-0, with Councilman John Hall absent, to approve $28,989 in additional funding for an opioid coordinator.