Harford County Executive Barry Glassman vowed to launch a multifaceted fight against the county's heroin "epidemic," using his first State of the County address to describe his personal experience with a young man who died from the drug.

Harford County Executive Barry Glassman vowed to launch a multifaceted fight against the county's heroin "epidemic," using his first State of the County address to describe his personal experience with a young man who died from the drug.

Glassman became emotional Tuesday night as he spoke about Nolan Gallion III, whom he "held as a baby 20 years ago" and who Glassman said just died of a heroin overdose.

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Gallion, of Churchville, died at age 24 on Jan. 25, according to an obituary from Zellman Funeral Home.

"We have a whole generation of young people at risk, and Harford County will lead in turning back this scourge," Glassman said, laying out a plan for a "center of excellence" that he hopes will focus on educating the public about the dangers of heroin abuse.

The Harford County Sheriff's Office has warned about rising numbers of heroin abuse and overdose deaths. Harford's heroin problem got national attention last year when the county was featured on the National Geographic Channel's "Drugs Inc."

Glassman told a packed County Council chambers on Tuesday he wants to focus on prevention and "aggressive intervention" in overdose situations.

The county executive added that an initiative "as simple as a helpline" can also be "a critical component."

"I want to do more than sign another executive order or appoint another task force," Glassman said.

He thanked the Sheriff's Office for focusing on "criminal dealers who sell the drug and our deputies who track them down."

Former sheriff Jesse Bane, who was in the audience Tuesday, said it made sense for Glassman to address the epidemic.

"It's something that has been out there for a long time," Bane, who was voted out of office last year, said, adding: "He has been touched by it recently."

Bane said the number of people addicted to heroin continues to grow. Although law enforcement and health officials seemed focused on painkillers as the county's biggest drug problem just a few years ago, Bane said trends in drugs come and go.

"It's one thing to fight the distribution of heroin, and it's even bigger to address the addiction," he said. "I am glad he has put that front and center."

County Council President Richard Slutzky said the county's focus on battling prescription drug abuse, with programs like regular Drug Take-Back Days, have meant painkillers are taking a back seat to heroin use.

"That has been a hot-button issue that we have all been made aware of since the crackdown on prescription drugs," Slutzky said after the meeting.

As a former health educator, Slutzky said, he knows users can "get it cheap; they mix it with other things."

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"I think public education is a good way to go," he said, but added it will take a lot of coordination among various groups.

"We need all the agencies on board," he said. "It's going to be a tough battle."

'A slumbering local government'

Also in his State of the County address, Glassman gave his audience a frank overview of Harford's financial struggles, including rising debt and what he called a minimal operating surplus.

He described the county's as "stable, but we cannot maintain our existing pace without an adjustment in our stride."

With the speech being streamed live on the county's website, Glassman diverged from his predecessor, David Craig, by showing charts of slow growing revenue and general government debt that ballooned from $200 million in 2007 to $500 million in 2010.

Taking another jab at Craig, the new county executive derided the prioritizing of building projects over human resources, reaffirming his goal of putting new capital projects on hold so county educators and other employees can potentially get raises.

Glassman said he would be "fine" with being evaluated on the number of families whose quality of life he improves instead of "the number of steel beams I raised and number of bricks I lay."

"No matter how much merit the project has, we have to take a breather," he said of the county's capital projects program.

He thanked the County Council members, three of whom are newcomers, for breathing life "into a slumbering local government" and said he hopes to "turn around Harford County."

Slutzky, who followed Glassman with his own legislative address, called the State of the County address very honest and said Glassman seems to be "sticking with his campaign promises."

"I think he was very candid about giving people information about the way things really are," he said.

"We are sort of at the mercy of the federal government, with sequestration and so on," he said in reference to the Army's recent announcement that it may consider cutting as many as 4,300 jobs at Aberdeen Proving Ground.

"Hopefully the federal government does their job. Then Harford County will be the beneficiary in that," Slutzky said.

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