Editorial: Too Soon to View Rising Heroin Deaths as State’s Failure

Heroin continues to be a serious threat to public health and public safety across the state. Despite ramped up efforts over the past year to curb heroin abuse and related deaths, the numbers continue to climb. The Editorial Board at The Frederick News Post advises against judging recent efforts against the growing but long standing problem:

Despite the governor’s plans to reduce by 20 percent the number of heroin-related deaths in the state by the end of 2015, the numbers have continued to climb, Gov. Martin O’Malley announced last week. We’d caution against reading too much into these numbers or losing hope. It’s early yet — too early for the ramped-up efforts of the state to have had a significant effect on what is a Byzantine problem with deep roots.

The editorial also notes Frederick County’s own rise in heroin related deaths:

“Heroin is unique,” Cpl. Vincent Brown, the assistant supervisor of the Frederick Police Department’s Drug Enforcement Unit, said in a story we ran in late June. “It doesn’t have an age group, class, or economic group it’s specific to.”

The county has had 11 heroin-related deaths so far this year. That’s up from only four in the first quarter of 2013, all of them in March, according to data from the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner. The total number of overdoses — both fatal and nonfatal — increased from 17 to 49 from 2012 to 2013. The number of emergency room visits related to heroin is also on the rise, according to DHMH, more than tripling between 2008 and 2013; 1,200 visits were made last year alone.

As previously reported on Conduit Street, at a news conference in July, Governor Martin O’Malley discussed the rise in overdoses despite efforts to reduce the number of heroin-related deaths, as well as his administration’s commitment to reduce those numbers. Data related to substance abuse and the Governor’s goal to reduce overdose deaths by 20% by 2015 can be found on the StateStat website.

For more information read the full editorial in The Frederick News Post.

Opioid abuse will also be discussed at MACo’s Summer Conference in two sessions – one looking at the issue from a public health perspective, and one from a public safety perspective.

Learn more about MACo’s 2014 Summer Conference:

Contact Meetings & Events Director Virginia White with questions about Summer Conference.