Md. County Reports 200 Opioid Overdose Deaths in 2017

Md. County Reports 200 Opioid Overdose Deaths in 2017

News Jan 22, 2018

The Capital, Annapolis, Md.

Jan. 19—Anne Arundel County Executive Steve Schuh painted a grim picture of the county's struggles with opioid addiction this week, saying he believes nearly 200 people died from overdoses last year.

Although Schuh variously put the number at 161 and 160 over two days of speeches on opioid addiction in the county, his administration has said the number was actually 155.

Yet, the Gibson Island Republican said he expects the final tally to rise by 25 percent as other fatal overdoses not reported to police are compiled by county and state agencies.

"The only good news in all (of) this is we're starting to see a significant decrease in the rate of increase," Schuh said at the Anne Arundel County Chamber of Commerce Legislative Breakfast on Thursday.

He added that more than 1,100 overdoses were reported to emergency personnel last year.

Anne Arundel County has thrown resources, funding and even litigation at an issue that claimed more lives than traffic accidents, homicides and suicide in 2016, according to state statistics.

Officials are hopeful the tide might be breaking. Schuh echoed a sentiment from acting county Health Officer Fran Phillips that the rate of increase in overdoses year-over-year began to decrease in November and December.

They show it reflects the success of various education and outreach programs, such as Safe Stations—a program that turns fire stations and police departments into veritable resource hubs for those looking to get into addiction treatment.

In speaking to the county General Assembly delegation in Annapolis on Friday morning, Schuh said more than 500 people have used Safe Stations since it started last year.

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But police have said they are struggling to contain shipments of heroin and fentanyl from pouring into the state. Fentanyl—a more powerful, yet cheaper synthetic opioid dealers mix with heroin—is believed to be largely responsible for the spike in overdose deaths across the country.

House Speaker Michael E. Busch, D-Annapolis, said at the legislative breakfast Thursday that the General Assembly will work this session to increase the number of private sector treatment beds available in Maryland.

Busch said most of the heroin and fentanyl coming into the state comes from China and through the Port of Baltimore, then down the Interstate 95 corridor to lower-level dealers.

It echoes what law enforcement officials have said about the county's drug addiction problem. Todd Edwards, a special agent with the Drug Enforcement Administration, said last year "99 percent of the heroin here is coming from Baltimore."

It could create a wrinkle in law enforcement's plans to crack down on dealers as they look to link overdose deaths to involuntary manslaughter charges and, ultimately, longer prison sentences.

An attorney for Gabriel Delvalle, a Baltimore County man charged in the fatal overdose of a Pasadena man, has asked for the case against him to be dismissed because prosecutors say the drugs were actually purchased in Baltimore. The case is being heard in Anne Arundel County Circuit Court.

"The state alleges that the deceased person, Christopher King, communicated with (Delvalle) about (Delvalle) purchasing heroin for King. The parties arranged to meet at Royal Farms, located at 6411 Ft. Smallwood Road in Baltimore City," Caitlin O'Donnell wrote. "Because the alleged criminal act occurred in Baltimore City, Anne Arundel County is not the proper venue for this case."

Prosecutors for the State's Attorney's Office have yet to filed a response and a spokeswoman for the office did not comment further.

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