BALTIMORE (WJZ) — There has been a surge in overdose deaths, according to the Maryland Department of Health.
A new report shows that overdose deaths have decreased in Baltimore City, but that the problem still persists statewide.
“You know people who are here today and gone tomorrow. It’s just that quick,” one woman said.
According to the health department, 383 overdose deaths were reported in the first three months of 2016 — nearly a 20 percent jump from the same period last year.
“It affects everybody, and that is it. It is hard to now know someone who hasn’t been affected in some way or another by this disease,” said Kathleen Rebbert-Franklin, Behavorial Health Administration.
Maryland health officials have been working to tackle the growing problem. The surge in deaths has been linked to the opioid fentanyl, which is being added to heroin, making the drug more powerful — and in most cases — lethal.
State leaders and health officials have joined forces to boost overdose prevention.
“There’s no one silver bullet to solve the entire problem, but it’s a holistic approach that we’re going to take,” said Governor Larry Hogan.
Maryland is looking to attack the epidemic on several levels. Officials want to educate prescribers and doctors, since more than 80 percent of heroin users begin with painkillers. They want to limit access and monitor patients who may be at risk.
The state’s Overdose Response Program is training family members, law enforcement officers who may be around high-risk individuals on how to use the medication naloxone, that reverses the effects of an overdose.
The state is also providing treatment for those suffering from addiction, helping them to get on the path to recovery.
“Getting clean is like cleaning up your whole life,” one woman said.
“We always have hope. The individual person can always recover, and that is the beauty of what we do,” said Rebbert-Franklin.
There are more than 23,000 people in Maryland who have been trained and certified to carry and use the life-saving medication naloxone.
For Marylanders who need and are seeking substance abuse treatment, CLICK HERE.