CUMBERLAND — The opioid epidemic is showing up in the public school system. Officials report a drop in elementary school attendance — including 21 student enrollment cancellations — related to the drug problem.

The issue was revealed Tuesday at a meeting of the Allegany County Board of Education at the Central Office on Washington Street.

Officials said the problem was primarily at the elementary school level and was a result of parental drug problems impacting children's daily lives.

Nil Grove, chief technology officer, gave a report of the situation.

"We have to report to MSDE (Maryland State Department of Education) our attendance," said Grove. "The attendance decrease in 2016 to 2017 was a result of our opioid crisis in the county. It was directly related to that. It's pretty sad, but that is something that did happen, where our students were unable to attend based on problems in their home."

Officials said the problems occur when parents' addictions to narcotics run counter to the child's educational needs.

David Cox, superintendent of schools, remarked on the issue.

"The goverment has appointed a special appointee to deal with this issue and all aspects of the opioid issue," said Cox. "But, we wanted to make you aware (that) not only has our attendance suffered ... mainly in elementary schools ... but, we've had 21 students who have been withdrawn from attendance because they have been placed in foster care or had to go to other counties for foster (care)."

Abuse of prescription pain medication and heroin usage has been gripping communities in rural America across the nation. Gov. Larry Hogan declared a state of emergency in March to better coordinate a response to the growing problem.

More than 2,000 people died of drug and alcohol overdoses in Maryland last year, an increase of 66 percent over 2015. Fifty-nine were in Allegany County.

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