BALTIMORE (WJZ) — It’s a number that continues to spike. Roughly 1,200 people died from drug overdose statewide last year, and close to half of those were in Baltimore City.

The opioid epidemic has both national and local leaders pushing for changes, as last month, Congress approved $1 billion in funding to fight the epidemic. That’s something leaders say this country and city desperately needed.

The crisis is no secret to experts.

“We have seen a steep increase in overdose deaths,” said Michael Botticelli, director of National Drug Control Policy.

Baltimore continues to grapple with opioid problems, specifically with heroin.

“Addiction is something that doesn’t effect random people, it affects all of us,” said Baltimore City Health Commissioner Dr. Leana Wen.

Data shows the city had 481 fatal overdoses last year in just nine months, a number that’s drastically more than the previous year.

“Unfortunately there are more people who died in our city from overdose, rather than homicide,” said Dr. Wen.

Alarming numbers that played a key role in the Obama administration pushing for $1 billion in funding – to spread out among states – to attack the issue.

“We know we’re losing too many Americans to addiction and opioid epidemic,” said Botticelli.

With the funding, officials say the focus will be to expand treatment and treatment access. They point to the over prescribing of prescription pain medication as a key contributor to the crisis, which they’ll continue to dial in on.

That, along with Naloxone or Narcan, which can save someone’s life if they’ve overdosed.

Something Dr. Wen says is crucial to help save lives and start turning numbers around.

“All of us are touched in some way by the disease of addiction,” said Dr. Wen.

Since last year, official say by using Naloxone or Narcan, every day residents and citizens have saved more than 530 lives.

The health department has already trained more than 17,000 every day citizens how to administer the medication.

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Rick Ritter

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