In Howard County, fatal overdoses down, non-fatal up from last year

While fatal opioid-related overdoses in Howard County have slightly dipped in 2018, non-fatal overdoses have increased, according to Howard County Police.

There were 32 fatal overdoses in the county through Sept. 23, and 35 through Sept. 23, 2017, according to police spokesman Seth Hoffman.


Police note that the numbers may fluctuate after autopsies are completed.

However, non-fatal overdoses have increased since this time last year, according to police data. As of Oct.1, police have reported 143 non-fatal overdoses compared to the 120 reported in the same time frame in 2017.

“...There’s nothing we can exactly pinpoint to explain the year-to-year changes,” Hoffman said an email Thursday.

In March, Gov. Larry Hogan declared a state of emergency on Maryland’s opioid crisis, pledging to spend $10 million a year, over the next five years, to battle the epidemic.

Data for “unintentional fatal overdoses” released by state health officials in January reported there were 1,501 opioid-related deaths in the state, 1,173 of which are linked to the painkiller fentanyl, through the third quarter of 2017 — January through September.

During the Howard County Fair in August, two food vendor employees, who were from out of state, were found dead in a locked bunk from suspected overdoses, police said. Evidence of drug use was found at the scene.

Paul Howells, 43, of Michigan, and Kevin Miller, 37, of Ohio, died on Aug. 7, police spokeswoman Sherry Llewellyn previously said.

The county has taken proactive measures to combat the opioid epidemic in its own backyard, including establishing “five critical goals,” that cover reducing the rates of fatal and non-fatal overdoses, reducing rates of opioids being prescribed to patients, decreasing the number of emergency room visits for opioid-related incidents and increasing the rate of county residents entering treatment for substance use disorder, according to the county’s 2018 response to a crisis opioids report.

Through a signed executive order, County Executive Allan Kittleman established an Opioid Crisis Community Council that works to review efforts and identify new opportunities in addressing opioid misuse.

In a partnership between the county and the Aetna Foundation, the overdose antidote naloxone is available in all county buildings. All county police officers carry naloxone with them at all times.

The Grassroots Crisis Intervention Center in Columbia has increased its capacity to provide in-person screening to youth, adults and families in dealing with substance misuse issues, according to the county’s website. There is also daily walk-in crisis assistance available at the center.

The county also has an Opioid Intervention Team that works to address opioid misuse. Numerous county departments are involved, including the health department, the office of emergency department, the police and fire departments and the department of corrections.