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More overdose deaths suspected in Harford

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As Harford County holds its annual symposium this week focusing on drug and alcohol abuse awareness and prevention, police and social services officials are dealing with a possible uptick in drug overdose incidents this month.

The Harford County Sheriff's Office is investigating at least two possible drug overdose deaths over the past few weeks, its chief spokesperson said.

The causes of death have not been confirmed, but the head of county's Office of Drug Control Policy says drugs are suspected.

"The deaths are alarming, and it still seems to be that prescription drugs are behind these overdose deaths, and it appears that heroin could be involved in some of these deaths," Office of Drug Control Policy Manager Joe Ryan said Monday.

Since June 1, there have been two unattended deaths in the county that appear to be drug-related, Monica Worrell, spokesperson for the sheriff's office, said Tuesday.

The Office of the State Medical Examiner will be the agency to determine whether the deaths were confirmed drug overdoses, she added.

Ryan said the medical examiner's report is expected in about three weeks.

There was also a third unattended death in nearby Delta, Pa., this month, the cause of which is undetermined, and that death also may be drug-related, Worrell said.

Just across the state line, Delta is not within the sheriff's office jurisdiction, but they did notify the parents of the deceased, who live in Harford County in Pylesville, Worrell said.

The two unattended deaths in Harford were among 10 deaths, classified as unattended, that were handled by the sheriff's office since June 1, according to Worrell.

As for overdose calls that were not fatal, Worrell said they have written three reports for June that indicated drugs may have been involved in 18 calls for service for which a suspected overdose was initially reported to 911.

On Wednesday, Ryan's agency will host its annual daylong Symposium on Drug Prevention, Intervention and Treatment at Patterson Mill High School from 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.

The symposium was started a dozen years ago when Harford was in the throes of a heroin abuse problem that local law enforcement officials believed had reached alarming proportions among the county's young people. The annual event is geared to helping young people and focuses on issues taking place not only in Harford County, but nationwide. One topic on this year's agenda is abuse of prescription andover-the-counter drugs, which has a major area of concern for Ryan and local law enforcement.

News of heroin overdoses rocked the county again at the end of last year, when three young adults died within two days in December.

Those deaths spurred calls from relatives and friends of the victims to address drug addiction among the county's young people. The sheriff's office, meanwhile, has regularly said prescription medications are the most abused drug in the county and are a major source of crime from shoplifting, to breaking and entering to armed robbery.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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