Advertisement

Carroll overdose deaths up in first six months of 2017

Carroll County saw 25 deaths related to drug and alcohol poisoning in the first sixth months of 2017. That's according to the latest figures from the Carroll County Sheriff's Office, which indicated two deaths occurred in June.

Heroin was implicated in seven of the deaths and the powerful synthetic opioid fentanyl in five deaths, a total that may change pending official toxicology reports from the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner.

Advertisement

These statistic show that the rate of overdose deaths, particularly those associated with heroin and other opioids, have continued to grow. At the six-month mark in 2016, the Sheriff's Office had recorded 16 total drug and alcohol-related deaths, including seven from heroin and two from fentanyl.

And yet Carroll officials have pointed out more people could well have died without the widespread presence of the opioid antidote naloxone.The large number of nonfatal overdoses, 253 in the first six months of 2017 (compared to 159 over the same period of 2016), reflect numerous lives that could have been lost without that medication.

The role of fentanyl, which is much more potent than heroin and is often mixed in with the latter on the black market, has been to make overdoses more likely, sometimes giving users such a high dose that a dose of naloxone is not enough to counteract it.

"I don't know that we have a bigger addiction problem than in the past," said Carroll County Health Officer Ed Singer. "What we have is a more lethal product that is out on the street."

Authorities throughout the country have been trying to find a way to slow the growth in opioid-related overdose deaths, and in Maryland, new funding and changes to the Maryland Medicaid Program are the latest efforts by Gov. Larry Hogan's administration to get a handle on the problem.

A new policy effective July 1 expanded Medicaid to cover up to two 30-day drug treatment programs in large facilities in the state, where the program previously offered limited grants for such treatment.

The Governor's Office of Crime Control and Prevention also recently announced $4 million in extra funding for counties to combat addiction and overdoses, $138,000 of which will be directed to Carroll County and distributed through the Carroll County Health Department, according to Singer. He plans to take a set of proposals before the Carroll Board of County Commissioners next week.

"Essentially we are asking for them to concur on our recommendation on how we would spend this money," Singer said.

In May, Singer said, the Health Department held meetings with many different agencies and organizations in the county to develop a list of priorities for tackling the problem of addiction in Carroll.

"The No. 1 priority that was identified was that need crisis services," he said.

While local law enforcement has been trained on how to intervene with people having a mental health or substance use-related crisis, Singer said, Carroll, unlike most other Maryland jurisdictions, does not have a dedicated team of people who can deal with someone in crisis. The police may pick up someone who is being disruptive on the street late at night because they are in the midst of a mental health crisis, only to find they are released from the hospital a short time later.

"They may find them back on the same bench they found them on earlier," Singer said.

Singer hopes the new state funding, in combination with some other grants, could help fund a mobile crisis intervention team with peer counselors and a social worker who would be available late at night. They would not only provide a place for people in crisis to go, and someone to talk to, he said, but might help get people directed to the right sort of treatment.

"It's generally people who either have mental health issues or substance use issues or both," Singer said. "We have quite a few people who have co-occurring disorders."

Advertisement

Meanwhile, the state has set up an emergency hotline, 800-422-0009, and a website designed to be a landing page for anyone looking for information or help with addiction in Maryland at www.MdDestinationRecovery.org.

"With these new interventions we will hopefully be reducing the number of addicts," Singer said.

410-857-3317



Advertisement
Advertisement