The figures released last week show an increase in heroin & fentanyl overdose deaths in Maryland.
Annapolis, Md (KM). Figures released last week by he Maryland Department of Health show overdose deaths continue to climb. The agency said there were 550 fatal overdoses in the state during January and March of this year, which is more than the 401 recorded the same period in 2016. Heroin-related deaths went up from 219 last year to 266 during the first three months of 2017. When it comes to fentanyl-related deaths, the state saw a big increase during the first quarter of 2017, up to 372 from 157 in 2016.
Clay Stamp, the center’s executive director, says the task force will continue to work with state agencies and local governments to help bring these figures down. But, he says, it will be a long fight. “I hear people say ‘we didn’t win the war on drugs.’ And my response to that is ‘the war never stops.’ The difference is the drugs are killing people at an alarming rate. So we have to use everything in our arsenal.”
Stamp says the Center, which coordinates the opioid-reduction activities in Maryland, takes a balance approach to the war on drugs. One of the approaches is law enforcement. “There are drug trafficking organizations engaged in a supply and demand business that are peddling poisons on the street that are affecting people, and that needs to be disrupted. So enforcement is hugely important as well as regulatory oversight over those who have the ability to issue medical prescriptions,” he says.
Some people got hooked on opioids because they once took pain killers prescribed by their doctors, and became addicted.
Another part of the balanced approach is treatment, but Stamp says the resources aren’t always there. “Back in 2010, we had marginal capacity to deal with substance use disorder at that time. With the shear numbers and how they’ve escalated, we need to expand the access to treatment. And those processes are underway to do that” he says.
A third part of the balanced approach, says Stamp, is prevention, which includes getting the message out to small children about the dangers of drug abuse. He says that means we need to “get into our schools, empower our youngest children with good decision-making tools before they go into that gauntlet into that middle and high school experience. And we need to protect our kids in school,” says Stamp.
He says prevention can work if the community gets behind it. “I believe if we can raise that groundswell, and push this balanced approach, I believe we’re going to put a dent in it and make a difference. I believe we can make a difference,” says Stamp.
The Opioid Operational Command Center was established by executive order by the Governor on January 1st, 2017 to coordinate with state agencies and local governments on ways to battle the opioid crisis.
The Command Center last month announced more than $22-million was being made available to fight the epidemic, with 80% going to local jurisdictions. Frederick County has received $162,021.75.
By Kevin McManus