Fentanyl-intoxication deaths in Baltimore double in first quarter of 2017

Posted at 6:28 PM, Aug 07, 2017
and last updated 2017-08-07 19:04:47-04

For the first time ever, the number of fentanyl-related deaths in the state are more than heroin-related ones.
It’s impacting the most people in Baltimore.


In a city that’s in the midst of an epidemic of violence. There’s another crisis – fentanyl.


The numbers, at first glance, are staggering – 123 fentanyl intoxication deaths from January to March of this year in Baltimore, a third of the fentanyl related deaths in the state.


“Even patients have no clue of the substance that they’re using, how toxic it is, and how fatal it is,” Nurse Practitioner Marian Currens said.


Fatalities, she says, that are skyrocketing.


She wears multiple hats on the front lines of the heroin and fentanyl crisis at the University of Maryland Medical Center’s Midtown campus.


The Maryland Health Department reports the number of deaths from fentanyl in the first quarter of the year are the highest they’ve been in 10 years.


It’s a problem impacting decision makers and those who see the epidemic first hand like Currens.


“This past weekend, another patient who was seemingly doing well, had a mishap died – needle in his arm. He left a wife and two young children,” she said.


It’s why Baltimore City Health Commissioner Dr. Leana Wen wants to a holistic approach to the problem, saying a quick fix won’t patch the state’s gaping wound.


“If we we’re unable to treat all of those people, we’re going to continue to fuel demand. Which is going to continue to fuel the supply of drugs too,” Wen said.


Baltimore, as part of federal and state funding, will receive more than $20 million to fight the heroin and fentanyl problem.


“We have done a lot with limited resources including: I issued a blanket prescription to every resident in the city for the antidote medication, for naloxone,” Wen said.


A step in the right direction, Dr. Wen says.


Still those at UMD, like La’Asia Gardner, who go into the community to help those battling heroin addiction say there should be more ways than naloxone to help, but it starts with those who need it.


“If you bring your body, your mind will follow and your will to get treatment willow. I believe that’s true. If you just show up, then it’ll come,” Gardner said


In addition to naloxone and access to treatment, Baltimore is creating a stabilization center – a 24 hour resource crisis center for those battling addiction.


That’s scheduled to open next year.