By Alex DeMetrick

BALTIMORE (WJZ) — Numbers are out for overdose deaths in Maryland during the first three months of 2017.

The Maryland Health Department reports 550 overdose deaths in that time period. And, as Alex DeMetrick reports, the death rate shows now signs of slowing.

It’s become a routine call for first responders: Reversing an overdose before it kills. That’s because powerful opioids like Fentanyl are being mixed into heroin.

Of the 550 fatalities, 372 were Fentanyl-related. That number is on track to equal or surpass the more than 2,000 overdose deaths in Maryland last year.

So, what makes this crisis different than other health crises?

“In this instance, there’s this stigma that surrounds the crisis,” says Clay Stamp, executive director of the Opioid Operation Command Center.

That stigma, he says, makes it difficult to bring everyone from addicts to agencies to work together “to sell that balanced approach,” Stamp says.

“It’s equally important in this crisis that we prevent, that we enforce, and that we expand access to treatment for people who need treatment.”

So there’s a new strategy to use Maryland’s emergency rooms that treat overdose cases.

“So we know these individuals are more likely to overdose in the future… we want to make sure we can tough them at that point. If that’s their low point, we want to get them into treatment.”

Another strategy is getting the life-saving drug Narcan into more hands. Baltimore Health Commissioner Dr. Leana Wen has cleared all city pharmacies to sell it over the counter.

The state has also set up a help line and website for people looking for treatment: and 1-800-422-0009.

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