BALTIMORE COUNTY, Md. (WJZ) — For the first time in a decade, Maryland experienced a decline in opioid death rates in the first six months of the year.

There typically has been a year-to-year increase in fatalities. Still, the epidemic rages on, and in Baltimore County, new steps are being taken to counter it.

Baltimore County has the second-highest overdose death rate in the state, but like other Maryland jurisdictions, saw a slight decline in the first six months of this year.

The death rate in 2017 was 323, jumped to 348 in 2018, and numbered 187 in the first six months of 2019.

Preliminary recommendations for fighting this battle were released in September and have now been finalized.

“We spent some time listening to the public and soliciting input on the preliminary recommendations,” said Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olszewski. “We heard a lot from people that affirmed what those recommendations of Baltimore County executives were. So these 11 final recommendations are very much in line with what our preliminary reports said.”

The recommendations fall into seven categories: addressing stigma, prevention, treatment, recovery, family support, criminal justice and harm reduction.

“Part of the challenge is fighting that stigma and having conversations about how we actually address it head-on, whether it’s preventing addiction in the first place, or finding access to treatment or saving live by preventing overdoses,” said Olszewski.

As a former teacher, Olszewski says education and coordinating programs with schools is something that could be done quickly.

“But you know not one thing is a magic bullet, so we’re going to have to do it all and do it pretty aggressively,” he added.

In addition to school system programs, you’ll see health department partnerships to address social issues that lead to addictions.

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