One county in Maryland is seeing a positive shift in the battle against opioid overdose deaths.
The number of opioid overdoses is down nearly 25 percent in Anne Arundel County, compared to this time last year. Fatal overdoses are down 37 percent.
“What I’m looking for are trends,” said Dr. Amanda Latimore, with the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. She works on the opioid crisis with public officials across the U.S.
As of April 9, the county has had 234 total overdoses, and 37 of them were fatal, according to a report from the county police department. Last year, by April 9, the county had 310 total overdoses; 59 were fatal.
“The mix of fatal and nonfatal over doses, you’re seeing a decrease there as well, but the mix is changing,” Latimore noted, adding that the rate of people surviving versus dying from overdoses is higher now in Anne Arundel County. “I think that is promising.”
Also higher now is the number of overdose victims and drug users seeking help without penalty from police and fire stations.
“Recognizing that we want to give people help and not handcuffs is the direction that we all need to go in,” Latimore said.
In February, the Anne Arundel Department of Health began distributing fentanyl test strips through a mobile wellness initiative. Latimore said fentanyl, which is 100 times stronger than morphine, is a significant factor in opioid overdose deaths.
“The Maryland Mobile Wellness Initiative is another tool in our toolbox to fight the heroin and opioid epidemic that is affecting every part of our state,” said Executive Director Steve Schuh of the Opioid Operational Command Center in a news release. “We hope this will serve as a promising practice for other jurisdictions to review and possibly implement.”
Compared to other counties in Maryland, Anne Arundel is 13 out of 21 counties for overdose deaths with 20 per 100,000 people in the population, which matches the national average, Latimore said. Baltimore City has about 40 overdose deaths per 100,000.
WTOP’s Nick Ianelli contributed to this report.
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