By Kimberly Eiten

BALTIMORE (WJZ) — With the death toll ticking upward, health care professionals want to talk about curing Maryland’s drug problem.

They’re inviting people across the state to join in, as they say the conversation needs to happen now.

Health care professionals are stepping in to try and erase the stigma of addiction and recovery.

One mother is also doing her part after losing her son.

He was a college graduate, a business owner, a younger brother, and a drug addict who tried to get clean.

“He was 35 when he died of an overdose,” said Mary Kehne.

Kehne doesn’t know how her son, Bruce Simmons, got hooked, but as a longtime psych nurse, she knew he needed medical help.

“He did go through periods of time where he would tell me he was trying to taper it down, to stop it, but then next thing I know, he was doing it all over again,” Kehne said.

A cycle that is all too real for so many Maryland families, and it’s one that health care professionals at the University of Maryland Medical System are determined to break.

“People need information, and they want to be able to talk to professionals in this arena, to help heal their families, to help heal themselves, and to help heal their children,” said Donna Jacobs, with the University of Maryland Medical System.

On Wednesday, November 29, addiction specialists are opening themselves to the public to provide answers on a tough subject.

UMMS will host an addiction discussion in person and online, spurred by a high demand.

“Everybody knows somebody who’s been impacted by this disorder, so I’m not surprised at all,” said addiction psychologist Dr. Eric Weintraub.

Dr. Weintraub has tried to treat the state’s drug epidemic for years. Now, he will take center stage to talk about how to curb its all time high.

“There’s a real stigmatization, even within the medical community, so we kind of want to present that addiction is more of a medical issue than a moral failing,” Dr. Weintraub said.

You can attend the discussion in person at UMMS in downtown Baltimore, or online.

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