"I can tell you we have gotten a lot of anecdotal support," she said. "Overall the reception has been positive by the individuals receiving the services."
Erin Artigiani, a deputy director at the Center for Substance Abuse Research at the University of Maryland, said about 1,000 more people sought treatment for heroin addiction in Baltimore in 2012 than in the year before, mirroring a statewide trend. She said those who study substance abuse across the country met recently in St. Louis for a conference and tried to identify the reason for the rise in heroin issues.
"Maryland is not unique in seeing an increase in heroin" use, she said. Artigiani said that the state has faced similar spikes in heroin overdose deaths before, in the late 1990s and then in the mid-2000s, leading to a "renewed effort" to address the issue.
"All of that had some effect back then so I'm hopeful we can do that again," she said.
Baltimore plans to host an "Overdose Awareness Day" in mid-August, city health department spokesman Michael Schwartzberg said, adding that the event would be the first of its kind. It will feature overdose prevention and education training, an information session and a candlelight vigil to remember those who have passed away due to drug overdoses.
On Aug. 9, Gov. Martin O'Malley will hold a roundtable with law enforcement and public health authorities to discuss the issue. The governor has set a goal of a 20 percent decline in drug and alcohol overdose deaths by 2015, DHMH said.
An earlier version overstated the number of heroin addicts in Baltimore. The Sun regrets the error.
Heroin overdose deaths
76 in 2011 to 126 in 2012 (Baltimore)
245 in 2011 to 378 in 2012 (Maryland)
All drug and alcohol overdose deaths
165 in 2011 to 213 in 2012 (Baltimore)
663 in 2011 to 761 in 2012 (Maryland)