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Harford County hospitals sharing overdose data to shed light on heroin problem

Posted at 6:33 PM, Dec 19, 2016

The numbers continue to rise.This year there have been 263 suspected heroin overdoses in Harford County.  The powerful drug has claimed 50 lives, a nearly 79 percent increase over last year's total.

"If EMS gets called, police are also dispatched to any overdose that occurs in the county,” Harford County Sheriff Jeff Gahler said.  “We put a policy here in place early on after I became sheriff of sending out a drug task force investigator on all those overdose scenes so we can gather additional information."

The aim is to get addicts help, and also learn details about whose pushing the drugs.     

But investigators said the map of where and when the ODs are happening is missing information, because not all drug overdoses in the county are reported to law enforcement.

"There were overdoses of people who were self-presenting at the hospitals, a loved one or a family member was driving them there, to one of our two hospitals in the county, and we weren't capturing that data," Gahler said.

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Two months ago, the sheriff’s office and the University of Maryland Upper Chesapeake Health signed an agreement to share basic data about people coming to the hospitals for a drug overdose.

"It's race, sex, age, suspected opiate, whether they suspect it was heroin or fentanyl, and the zip code that it occurred in," Gahler said.

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Just this month, the numbers started rolling in.  Already, three additional overdoses have been added to the books that officials otherwise would have had no clue about.  Painting a clearer picture of heroin's hold in Harford County.

"What we're trusting is it's gonna give us a better picture of how far reaching, and we know it is far reaching across this country, but how far reaching it is here in the county," said Gahler.

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