BALTIMORE (WJZ) — It’s been a problem for generations in Baltimore and now the city hopes to tackle it. Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake has announced the start of a task force to examine the extent of heroin across the city.

Rick Ritter has details on what the city labels a nine-month plan.

Heroin has killed more people in Baltimore than any other drug in the last seven years. The new task force will spend the next several months trying to turn substance abuse around.

On the streets, inside homes and all over the city.

“This is an issue that’s been persistent in our community,” said Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake.

Heroin continues to destroy families across Baltimore.

“You cannot let them continue to poison the youths’ lives,” said a resident.

The city’s new task force has been in the works for months and hopes to clean up what some call the heroin capital of the world.

“It’s a very, very challenging disorder,” said Interim Health Commissioner Dr. Jacqueline Duval-Harvey.

It’s starting with local treatment centers and reducing overall substance abuse in the city.

“I asked they provide recommendations to strengthen drug treatment options,” Rawlings-Blake said. “The task force will also explore how to better engage the community and provide positive interactions in neighborhoods where treatment programs operate.”

In 2013, 464 people died of a heroin overdose in Maryland, an 88% increase from 2011. Officials estimate the number of heroin addicts in Baltimore at 11,000. The city task force will determine if that number is even higher.

A recent episode of Drugs Inc. on National Geographic estimates that number is closer to 60,000.

“Whether we’re talking bout 10, 11,000 or 60,000, we’re still losing too many people,” Rawlings-Blake said.

Too many in what the city says has been a problem for generations.

“What will be very important is to have a full range of options and for those options to be effective,” Duval-Harvey said.

The task force has already started meeting. They will make changes as they go and report back to the mayor’s office by next July.

The heroin task force will be overseen by the Baltimore Behavioral Health System.

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Rick Ritter

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