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Baltimore's top health official went to court Thursday to give out prescriptions for a medication that prevents overdoses as the city continues to look for innovative ways to curb rising deaths from heroin use.

Dr. Leana Wen gave out the prescriptions for naloxone to 30 drug offenders at the Baltimore City Adult Drug Treatment Court, where they get drug treatment and academic and vocational training in lieu of traditional jail time.

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If administered properly, the life-saving drug quickly reverses the effects of overdose from opiod drugs such as heroin.

Wen and other public health officials see preventing overdoses as key to helping with the addiction problem.

While other counties in the state are training people how to use naxolone, Baltimore is the first jurisdiction to mandate it in court.

It is estimated that 18,900 people have used heroin in the past year in Baltimore. Last year, there were 303 overdose deaths in Baltimore City, a 19 percent increase from 2013.

"The first step to recovery is staying alive," Wen said. "We need to get life-saving naloxone into the hands of people most at risk."

Distribution of prescription drugs is not permitted in the courts so arrangements have been made with a pharmacy near the court to fill prescriptions. Most of the participants are insured through Medicaid.

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