Region’s leaders draw attention to opioid crisis

LINTHICUM HEIGHTS, Md. — Regional leaders gathered for a summit Tuesday in Anne Arundel County, Maryland, to address and draw attention to the heroin and opioid crisis that has led to thousands of deaths across the area in recent years.

The Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments hosted the Regional Opioid and Substance Abuse Summit in Linthicum Heights.

Among the speakers were Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe and D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser.

“Our goal has been to shine a spotlight on the heroin and opioid crisis in our region,” said Hogan, who in March signed an executive order declaring a state of emergency in response to the issue. “This threat has rapidly escalated.”

Six people die in Maryland every day as a result of opioid overdoses, Hogan said.

The governor said that last year, opioid-related deaths in the state exceeded firearm and motor vehicle fatalities combined.

“As this crisis evolves, so must our response to it,” Hogan said. “We cannot do it alone.”

In Virginia, McAuliffe said, opioid overdoses led to 1,100 deaths last year. That number is on track to reach 1,400 this year, he said.

“There are no state lines. There are no boundaries at all when it comes to this very difficult problem that we’re facing,” said McAuliffe.

In October, Hogan, McAuliffe and Bowser signed the National Capital Region Compact to Combat Opioid Addiction, pledging that the three jurisdictions would work collaboratively to stop the damaging effects caused by the opioid epidemic.

Tuesday’s summit came as a result of the compact.

“My team and I are committed to very aggressively addressing opioid use in the District and working with our partners in the region,” Bowser said. “It crosses all socioeconomic lines, and it crosses racial barriers. That’s why we’re working together.”

An estimated 2 million people in the U.S. are addicted to prescription opioids. On average, 91 people die each day from an overdose of those painkillers or their illicit cousin, heroin.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Nick Iannelli

Nick Iannelli can be heard covering developing and breaking news stories on WTOP.

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