By Rick Ritter

BALTIMORE (WJZ) — It’s one of the most pressing health issues in the country as Maryland remains in the grip of a heroin epidemic. Now the federal government is committing more money to help tackle a problem that’s wreaking havoc on families across our state.

Rick Ritter has more on the funding—and why some say that’s not enough.

More than 20,000 people alone use heroin in Baltimore City and just this week, we had two overdoses in Harford County. It’s a statewide problem that continues to grow.

Families have been torn apart and communities ravaged.

“I feel like our family was given a life sentence of grief,” said Toni Torsch, whose son was killed in a heroin overdose.

“Addiction doesn’t care who you are, where you’re from,” said Sam Bierman, executive director of the Maryland Addiction Recovery Center in Towson.

Some blindsided.

“Someone gave her a pill and she became an addict,” said Craig McLaughlin, a minister whose daughter died of heroin addiction.

A heroin epidemic is killing people across Maryland. Torsch knows firsthand.

“Pain that I probably can’t even explain,” she said.

The Perry Hall mother lost her 24-year-old son Daniel to an accidental overdose.

“It doesn’t affect just that person; it affects everyone who surrounds them,” she said.

Officials announced $94 million in federal funding Friday to fight opioid abuse and addiction. Nearly $2 million of that will go to five Maryland health centers.

“That’s a good thing and it’s a great thing when it’s put toward treatment,” Torsch said.

Getting addicts into treatment has been a major problem. In just the first nine months last year, more than 500 people died of heroin-related causes.

Baltimore City Health Commissioner Dr. Leana Wen says the funding is a step in the right direction but nowhere near enough to fully expand treatment.

“This is a disease that does not discriminate and affects people from all walks of life and that’s why it’s important for us to expand treatment,” Wen said.

“I will never live to see the world of war drugs won and I’m not sure if you will, either. So to win it has to be through education and treatment,” Torsch said.

Some feel the funding was solely focused on Baltimore and could have been more spread out. The Maryland centers that will receive funding are Chase Brexton Health Services Clinic, Baltimore Medical System, Total Health Care, The Community Clinic in Silver Spring and the Greater Baden Medical Service in Brandywine.

The US Department of Health & Human Services expects the money to provide treatment for roughly 125,000 new patients.

Rick Ritter

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