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Howard County announced Monday a 37% decrease in opioid-related deaths in 2019 compared to 2018.

There were 181 fatal and nonfatal overdoses in Howard County in 2019, compared to a total of 222 in the prior year, according to the Howard County Police Department.

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“With decreases in opioid fatalities and nonfatal overdoses, we are making progress in fighting the opioid epidemic in Howard County,” Howard County Executive Calvin Ball said. “Moving forward, we will continue taking a comprehensive approach to provide the full continuum of care in Howard County, and ensure all our residents are healthy and thriving.”

The announcement of the reduced numbers comes one week after the Maryland Department of Health and the Opioid Operational Command Center released their third-quarter report on the opioid crisis.

According to the OOCC, there were 1,574 opioid-related deaths in Maryland from January to September 2019, with 93% of them involving the use of fentanyl, a synthetic opioid pain reliever that can cause death when taken in high doses or mixed with other drugs and alcohol. This is a 4.8% decrease from last year over the same nine-month time period.

“Fentanyl is a lethal drug often involved in fatalities. The situation has become extremely complex since people often use multiple substances, such as fentanyl in combination with cocaine,” said Robert Neall, the secretary of the Maryland Department of Health. In 2019, there were more fatalities involving cocaine than heroin, he added.

In Maryland, cocaine is the second-most prevalent drug involved in overdose deaths behind opioids. Between January and September 2019, there were 643 cocaine-related deaths in Maryland, down from 784 in 2018, according to the OOCC.

The OOCC attributed the increase in cocaine-related deaths over the past few years to the use of cocaine in combination with opioids. Approximately 90% of cocaine-related deaths in 2019 can be attributed to the opioid combination, according to the report, which came out Dec. 30.

This past May, Ball opened Howard House, the first county-owned treatment facility for individuals on the road to recovery. Grassroots Crisis Intervention, a nonprofit organization in Columbia, opened the New Beginnings Crisis Stabilization Center in December to prevent delays in treatment for those in need of referrals for substance-use disorder treatment.

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