HARFORD CO., Md. (WJZ) — It can seem overwhelming, with a steady stream of opioids and a rising number of overdoses and deaths flowing through Maryland.

In Harford County alone, there were five overdoses and three deaths in the first 11 days of 2019.

“Treatment is successful in some cases, but in most cases it’s not,” said Harford County Sheriff Jeffrey Gahler. “I think we’re going to beat this through prevention.”

The county is assigning Deputy Sheriff Sergeant Aaron Penman to try something new; a program reaching out to school kids about the dangers of drugs.

“Grades three to five, ages 8 to 11 years old,” Penman added.

If that seems young to begin talks about drug use, it’s based on research that kids begin experimenting in 6th grade.

“So they’re prepared when they get in that situation from peer pressure, from family that may be using drugs, to be able to say no, and have the coping skills to deal with peer pressure,” Penman said.

Numbers for the first half of 2018 total nearly 1,200 opioid deaths in Maryland. By the time the full year is counted, it’s expected to easily exceed the 2,009 deaths in 2017.

So the Hogan administration is earmarking $248 million toward substance abuse, a 20 percent increase. Hogan is also backing a therapeutic treatment center to be built next door to Baltimore City’s jail.

State and local governments aren’t the only ones investing.

Last October, Care First Insurance pledged more than $2 million “to 11 community health organizations working to increase access to substance and opioid use disorders throughout our region,” said Care First Senior Vice President Maria Tildon.

And no region is immune from overdoses and deaths.

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Alex DeMetrick

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