HAGERSTOWN, Md. (WDVM) — The substance abuse crisis has only gotten more severe during the pandemic. That brought some attention to our area Wednesday from some top federal officials on both Capitol Hill and the Biden administration.

Congressman David Trone (D – Md.) paid a call on Meritus Hospital to see treatment efforts first hand.

“We have an opioid epidemic in this country,” Trone said. “We lost 93,000 people last year.”

With so many lives at stake and families torn apart by the epidemic, Trone brought the nation’s top federal official dealing with the crisis to Hagerstown. What does she plan to take away from her visit?

“I am here to talk to people who are in recovery, to talk to family members and health care experts about the work that they’re doing to address overdose, behavioral health, mental health care,” Regina Labelle, acting director for drug policy, said.

She has high praise for the professionals at Meritus.

“What I am really impressed with in this congressional district is the work that’s being done on the local level to address the issue and to build out the type of addiction infrastructure that’s needed,” Labelle said.

Trone says that after talking with the treatment teams at Meritus, there is a critical window in delivering lifesaving care. What’s especially important, he says, is “24/7 to help folks in stabilization because that’s the moment they really need assistance.”

Trone says $475,000 in federal funds have been allocated to Meritus Hospital for their addiction treatment program. Following his tour of the patient facilities at Meritus, Trone and Labelle held a roundtable with health care professionals about the future for these treatment programs in Washington County.