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Gov. Hogan unveils tougher legislation to reverse opioid epidemic

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Posted at 10:35 PM, Jan 24, 2017
and last updated 2017-01-25 06:30:41-05
There have been too many stories about about the thousands of people who've died from heroin and opioid overdoses.
 
Here in Maryland,  the numbers continue to rise but Tuesday in Annapolis, Governor Larry Hogan introduced legislation with the sole purpose of reversing that trend and punishing those who've helped it grow.
 
The legislation is three-prong.
 
It fights for tougher penalties for dealers, more oversight for those prescribing opioid painkillers, and the collecting of data from non-fatal overdoses to make anti overdose drugs more accessible.
 
In Harford County,  where its sixth overdose of the year was just reported Tuesday,  law enforcement officials are banking on these laws to save lives.
 
"Heroin is one of those things, you might not get that next day, your first time might be your last," Sheriff Jeffrey Gahler told ABC2. 
 
That's why governor Hogan introduced his 2017 heroin and opioid prevention, treatment and enforcement initiative.
 
"We announced even more focus, more money, and additional steps this year that were going to take in this upcoming legislative session both on the treatment side on the education side and the law enforcement side," Hogan said.
 
The governor explained why the initiative is so crucial.
 
"It was affecting every socioeconomic class, people everywhere, families were being torn apart, communities were being torn apart it was killing people," Hogan said.
 
And it still is.  
 
"We've lost so many we've nearly doubled loss of life and in fact today we lost another one, number 6 6th life lost in just the beginning of the year here,"' said Gahler.
 
Governor Hogan called the heroin and opioid epidemic a crisis
 
"I knew heroin was a problem three years ago when i first starting looking at it, i had no idea how pervasive it had become," Hogan said.
 
The legislation includes language limiting  doctors from prescribing more than 7 days worth of opioid painkillers during a first visit, a 30 year felony sentence for dealers responsible for sales that lead to death and the collection of data from non fatal overdoses to make Naloxone, a drug that can counteract overdose, more easily available. 
 
Law enforcement says the initiative hits all the main problems .
 
"It would send a message to the dealers that Maryland's not playing anymore they're looking at a 30 year it's the same thing as going out and killing people they're looking at a 30 year felony. We see two main paths.  It's either the person started with marijuana and alcohol at a young age or through prescription pills," Gahler said.
 
But the governor says without a collective effort, the epidemic will continue.
 
"It's going to take the federal government, the state government, the counties the municipalities, the communities, the faith based organizations, the volunteer groups, everybody," Hogan said. 
 
The governor is also expected to sign an executive order creating an opioid operations command center.
It's a task force designed to organize training and funding for local anti-addiction teams plus collect data on opioid use.