State grant will fund new position to fight opioid addiction in Howard

Howard County is creating a new position in the county's police department to fight heroin and opioid addiction.

The position is funded by a $70,000 grant from the Governor's Office of Crime Control and Prevention, an office that advises Gov. Larry Hogan on criminal justice strategies.

According to the county's police department, heroin-related deaths doubled from 8 to 16 between 2014 and 2015. Last year, most overdose deaths involved heroin.

Although this number is lower compared to other counties like Harford, Howard County Executive Allan Kittleman said overdoses are occurring more frequently.

"Families are devastated by this scourge, which impacts people of all backgrounds," Kittleman said. "This new position will support existing initiatives, assist with investigative work, analyze data and facilitate coordination among county agencies and treatment professionals."

The coordinator will gather and analyze addiction data, help with investigations and coordinate with county agencies and treatment providers.

This year, 20 people have died from overdoses. Half of those deaths involved heroin, according to a county press release.

The opioid problem warrants a holistic approach, said Howard County Police Chief Gary Gardner.

"We will continue to arrest those responsible for making heroin and other opioids available in our county, but enforcement is just one piece of the puzzle. Our new employee will be following up with drug-users and their families every time we get a report of an overdose. The goal will be intervention, placement in services and stopping the cycle for the people we see again and again," Gardner said.

Maura Rossman, the county's health officer said the new position is essential to analyze data and produce "effective prevention and treatment strategies."

The grant is renewable for funding every year and is based on a collaboration between Kittleman's office, the Police Department and the Health Department.

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