One would have to be a true hermit to not know about the opioid crisis and tens of thousands of overdose deaths in the United States, an epidemic that has been declared a public health emergency by President Donald Trump and the government agencies under his leadership.

Use of prescription painkillers that leads to addiction to heroin and other deadly drugs crosses all the lines of demarcation in our population, prematurely ending the lives of people ranging from inner-city gang members to wealthy socialites and those of every social status in between. The fatal measure could be administered by the victim in a filthy alleyway or a luxurious penthouse apartment. Parents lose children and children lose parents. The grief is widespread.

Maryland, West Virginia, Pennsylvania and other states have joined the battle against opioids, setting aside money to pay for preventive programs and treatment for those afflicted, in addition to the federal funding. Large pharmaceutical companies that marketed medicine that fed the beast have been held accountable in courts of law, with more legal action pending.

On the local level, the Western Maryland Health System Auxiliary has pledged $1 million to support construction and operation of the new WMHS recovery center for individuals battling opioid addiction or other substance abuse and behavioral health issues.

That is great news.

Its recent $400,000 contribution was the first payment toward the residential step-down facility, which will provide resources to patients reintegrating into the community. Construction is slated to begin this summer on the center, which will be located on Leslie Lane near the hospital campus.

The commitment gives the auxiliary naming rights of the new facility.

The auxiliaries of Sacred Heart and Memorial hospitals joined to form the WMHS Auxiliary in 2005, and since then the organization has given more than $2.75 million to the local health system through multiyear pledges and cash donations. The agreement on the recovery center was signed at the 200-member group’s spring membership dinner.

The auxiliary is the largest fundraising partner of the WMHS Foundation, for which Karen Johnson serves as chief development officer and executive director. She welcomes the public’s financial support of the project.

“It seems every one of us knows someone who has been touched by addiction,” she said. Contributions of all amounts are welcome.

For more information about donating, contact her at 240-964-8060 or karenjohnson@wmhs.com.

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