Opioid overdoses, fatalities see downward trend in Anne Arundel County, Annapolis in 2022

Opioid overdoses and fatalities in Anne Arundel County and Annapolis decreased between 2021 and 2022, according to county and city data.

The Anne Arundel County Health Department’s overdose dashboard noted an 18% decline in overdoses in general and a 30% decline in fatal overdoses last year. Annapolis saw a similar trend with overdoses declining 21% and fatalities down 41% during the same period.


In 2022, the county reported 707 opioid overdoses and 122 fatal overdoses compared to 862 and 174, respectively, the previous year. More than 85% of overdoses in 2022 involved fentanyl, according to county health department data. About eight in 10 county overdoses were treated with Naloxone, a drug that mitigates the effects of the overdose.

City and county leaders say the declines are due to a number of factors including coordinated efforts to reach out to people in need, residents dealing with addiction feeling more empowered to seek help, and a yearslong effort to reduce the stigma around drug use.


Anne Arundel County Health Officer Nilesh Kalyanaraman attributes some of the success to a program that started in early 2022. The health department partnered with Anne Arundel Police to reach out to people facing addiction who refuse to go to the hospital.

While the health department has visited people who have overdosed and gone to the emergency room for many years, it’s not something they’d done in neighborhoods before.

“What the police were telling us was, ‘You know, there are people we see who refuse transfer to the emergency room, so what happens to them?’” Kalyanaraman said. “So, from that, we set up a system where the police will let us know if there’s somebody they’ve encountered who overdoses but who did not get transported to the emergency room. They let us know within a few hours of it happening and then our peer outreach staff will go out and engage with that individual.”

Health department staff talk to them about available treatment options, harm reduction and social services. The health department also partnered with the Annapolis Police Department to mimic the county program in the city at the end of 2022.

Annapolis Office of Emergency Management Director Kevin Simmons said, in general, the collaboration between local departments, including police and fire at the city and county levels and the county health department, has helped both localities address the issue more effectively. It’s an effort that kicked off in 2017 when then-Gov. Larry Hogan declared the opioid crisis a state of emergency.

“What’s making us successful is this cross-collaboration. We all meet. We exchange ideas. We explore new methods, and we exchange data,” Simmons said.

Annapolis hosts opioid use intervention programs in the city’s fire department, police department, mayor’s office and office of emergency management. Each targets a different group of residents. A $189,000 state grant helped the city bolster those programs in 2022, Simmons said.

“When folks of that level of expertise and professionalism come together, there’s nothing that we can’t achieve,” he said.


As a result, Annapolis saw total overdoses decline from 135 in 2021 to 107 last year, according to the Office of Emergency Management’s dashboard, ODFree. Fatal overdoses also declined from 17 in 2021, to 10 last year, with another five pending lab results.

Of the total city overdoses in 2022, 82% involved heroin or some sort of opioid.

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Residents who overdosed were generally more willing to try the overdose reversal drug Naloxone in 2022, Kalyanaraman said. The share of county overdose treated with Naloxone increased from 79% in 2021 to 80% in 2022.

“More people who maybe weren’t interested before are now,” Kalyanaraman said of Naloxone. “Whoever we distribute it to talks about it with their friends or family and there’s just growing acceptance for people who might not otherwise have wanted it to have it.”

One effect of the opioid epidemic, which hit Anne Arundel County in the early 2010s, was the sheer number of people getting addicted, Kalyanaraman said. The omnipresence of opioids made residents more aware of drug abuse and the issues that lead to it and services that can help.

“People [were] speaking up and saying, ‘I went through this. That doesn’t make me a bad person. That doesn’t mean I’m broken. This was a challenge,’” Kalyanaraman said, adding that, as communities evolved in the way they understood drug use disorder, the health care sphere did as well. “The other part of it is the health care community recognizing that this really is a chronic disease issue. It’s not a moral failing issue. It’s not a ‘you’re a bad person’ issue and treating it as such.”


In order to maintain the decline in overdoses, the health department is zeroing in on prevention and early intervention. Kalyanaraman said the department will continue to work with prevention coalitions, students, sharing presentations on the effects of drug use on mental health with schools and community groups, and taking calls to its warmline at 410-768-5522.

Both the county and city are looking forward to receiving funding for this work as they are awarded settlement money from a lawsuit against the manufacturers and distributors of opioids. The county received its first installment of $1.5 million last month and the city is expecting its first installment soon. The county will receive $31 million, and the city will get around $1.2 million paid out incrementally over the next 18 years.

“That’s going to be a game changer,” Simmons said.