In the first three months of 2016, Howard County saw five fentanyl-related deaths. The same time frame this year, that number was up to 11. Local experts attribute the spike to the increase in fentanyl being used to cut heroin. As we have discussed on this blog in the past, the presence of fentanyl can dramatically increase the potency of a batch of heroin, leading to high likelihood of overdose among users. Further, there have been ten heroin-related deaths in Howard County so far this year.
County officials have requested $125,000 in state funding to put towards substance abuse treatment and resources. They want to expand options for people and family members seeking addiction treatment, as well as more fully staff an addiction emergency hotline, to better assist people in crisis. Part of the funding would train hotline workers to sufficiently screen callers and route them more efficiently to the appropriate treatment services. There are further plans for a county residential detox center and crisis stabilization center to provide services and case management for people struggling with addiction.
However, as mentioned in this article in the Baltimore Sun, these resources aren’t going to do much good without more residential and long-term treatment facilities to place addicts in following crisis evaluations and case assessments. Most addicts cannot afford treatment, but facilities need to be available to ANYONE who is struggling with an addiction, that offer at minimum some addiction counseling and recovery foundational support. Most addicts need at a minimum 30 days in an inpatient treatment facility to detox, get some distance from toxic people and environments, and begin the process of recovery. This means twelve step meetings, counseling sessions, group therapy, and aftercare planning that ideally leads to transitional housing. It appears that some local experts are aware of this and have been outspoken about the need for more options for those in need. As with the other measures being implemented across the state (and the country), these initial steps are certainly positive, but a concerted effort between state and federal agencies, as well as grassroots organizations and nonprofits, will be needed in order to enact real change and help for the opioid epidemic.