Saved lives matter in Harford's fight against opioid abuse epidemic [Editorial]

The numbers don’t sound all that impressive.

Fatal opioid overdoses, according to the Harford County Sheriff’s Office, decreased by five from 68 in the first nine months or so last year to 63 so far in the same period in 2018. Non-fatal overdoses increased by 3.7 percent this year compared to the same period in 2017.

The fatal overdose numbers, while showing a 7 percent decrease this year, and non-fatal overdoses increasing slightly don’t portend any great progress in the fight against addiction, especially opioid addiction.

Tell that to any family struggling with a loved one’s addiction, hoping for the best while clinging to that person’s presence. There are many families – 63 in 2018 alone – who no longer have a loved one to hold on to, to fret about, to cry over, to spend too much of their money on, to give so much of their soul to ease that person’s pain and to fight like hell to save their earthly being.

Five lives saved may be small movements in the opioid addiction numbers, but they’re monumental to some people who worry every day that their loved one might become another number in the fatal overdose column on the tote boards in front of police stations in Harford County.

“That’s five more families who still have their loved ones,” Maj. Jack Simpson, commander of the Sheriff’s Office administrative services bureau, said last week as he changed the numbers on the board in front of the agency’s headquarters.

Saving lives is what drives the tireless efforts of the Harford County Sheriff’s Office, the Harford County government and so many others who are fighting the addiction on every front they can identify.

The tallies that so many see and have learned are updated every Monday are not about the numbers, they’re about the daughters and the sons and the brothers and the sisters and the mothers and fathers and the cousins and the friends and the neighbors and every one of the individuals lost.

“While I am hopeful that we are in the early stages of seeing a positive impact from the tireless work of our deputies, I am cautious with my optimism, but hopeful,” Harford County Sheriff Jeffrey Gahler said last week.

Keep up the good fight is all any of us can do. That and keep our eyes on the numbers, being thankful for every decrease, no matter how small, and remember those numbers are real people whose deaths caused deep and lasting pain to those who cared so much about them.

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