Of all the problems facing Carroll County — and the state, for that matter — heroin addiction might be one of the most difficult challenges to address.
Here in Carroll, 36 people died from the use of heroin between 2012 and the first six months of 2014, the most recent statistics available from the state health department. Those statistics showed that, statewide, there has been 578 heroin overdoses in 2014 — a 21 percent increase over 2013. And, according to Carroll County State's Attorney Brian DeLeonardo, the problem is only getting worse.
The key to this battle is treatment. Getting addicts into drug treatment facilities early on in their struggles is the best way to get them help. Helping them will undoubtedly cut back on crime since local law enforcement officials believe a great deal of property crime and thefts are caused by those addicted to heroin or some other drug. It's one reason we said earlier this week that the idea of a minimum security detention center with a focus on rehabilitation makes sense.
So we're mostly pleased by what we learned earlier this week from plans out of both DeLeonardo's office and that of Gov. Larry Hogan's. DeLeonardo's office has created and is distributing Stamp Out Heroin cards, which act as a guide to where addicts can receive treatment. Organizations such as Carroll Hospital and the Carroll County Sheriff's Office are helping out with circulating them, and they will soon be put in the hands of first-responders, too. The project has the potential to get more people into treatment.
At the same time, Hogan's office announced a modest $2 million to fight heroin addiction, with about $800,000 of that going to a treatment facility in Chestertown on the Eastern Shore and $300,000 to an overdose survivor's program in Baltimore. Another $500,000 is going to local health departments throughout the state for training on the use of naloxone, a drug used to battle overdoses. More is going to police agencies and some is to a public awareness campaign.
Lt. Gov. Boyd Rutherford, who heads up the state's Heroin and Opioid Emergency Task Force looking at the issue of substance abuse, plans to make a recommendation to Hogan by December. On Tuesday, he told The Baltimore Sun that the heroin crisis is so large that there might never be enough money to battle the problem. "It's probably never going to be enough," he said.
We hope Rutherford's wrong but sadly, we have to acknowledge that we are in for a tough battle, so prioritizing funding will be key. We hope that Rutherford's task force isn't shy about asking for more money to be put toward drug treatment options. The timing of the December report should lead into more money being appropriated in the 2017 state budget, which will be approved during the next General Assembly session that starts in January.