For Maryland’s rural areas, the opioid epidemic is a serious drag on government and medical resources in places where budgets are already stretched. In the past two years, Western Maryland Health has spent nearly $1.5 million in additional costs from opioid-related patient treatment.

But while the opioid crisis appears to be kicking Maryland’s rural populations while they’re down, the silver lining might be in the size and inherent closeness of those communities.

“In our small area, opioids affect pretty much every family, one way or another,” said Tommy Conneely, who runs the Lost Sheep Recovery Mission in Caroline County and said he has been seven years sober from alcohol.

Caroline, like other rural counties, is beginning to harmonize its anti-opioid efforts across a wide range of public, private and faith-based groups. The county’s drug-and-alcohol-abuse council includes a diverse collection of law enforcement, education, substance-abuse and mental-health officials.