Howard County's Department of Corrections has been awarded nearly $50,000 by the state to combat heroin addiction.
The grant of $49,706 comes from the Governor's Office of Crime, Control and Prevention and was among more than $600,000 in awards announced last week for Medically Assisted Treatment programs and other re-entry programs statewide.
Howard County has recently seen an increase in heroin use and overdoses, primarily among white men and women between the ages of 18 and 30, according to the office of Howard County Executive Allan Kittleman.
Last year, there were 18 non-fatal heroin overdoses in Howard, while so far this year there have been 14. The county also appears to be seeing a rise in heroin-related deaths; from five in 2013, to eight in 2014; to seven thus far in 2015.
Recent growth in heroin users, who span all socioeconomic backgrounds, is likely due to harsher control of prescription opioids, which has driven people to buy heroin, which is cheaper, instead. Howard County police have responded by carrying Narcan, which counteracts heroin overdoses, and sending vice and narcotics detectives to the scene of suspected overdoses.
The Department of Corrections administers three heroin treatment programs for current and former inmates and their families: One teaches inmates with a history of addiction how to respond to an overdose, a second educates families the warning signs of addiction and a third, which was launched this year, is a treatment program for addicts.
The state grant will fund re-entry mediation, prevention programs, computer skills training and food safety education classes at Howard Community College for inmates, accupuncture for treatment program participants and training for guidance program facilitators at the detention center.
In a statement, Howard County Executive Allan Kittleman working to "address the epidemic of drugs in our communities" should be a collaborative effort "across all levels of government.
"This funding will go toward efforts to stop the cycle of crime through re-entry programs and help keep our neighborhoods safer," he said.