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Harford County on pace to set record number of heroin-related overdoses and deaths in 2017

Posted at 5:33 PM, Jul 06, 2017
and last updated 2017-07-07 06:36:39-04

Red numbers on signs across Harford County say it all. In the first half of 2017, 215 people have overdosed on heroin, with 45 of them losing their lives.

At this rate, Sheriff Jeffrey Gahler says the county could see those numbers double by the end of the year.

"We will certainly exceed last year's overdose totals," he said.

The Department started tracking overdoses in 2015. That year there were 201 heroin related overdoses, and 28 of them were fatal. 2016 blew past those numbers with 56 deadly overdoses out of 290 total.

This year is quickly catching up.

"We're seeing it not just in Harford County but across the state and across the country, that the heroin epidemic continues and there’s no expectation, there's nothing that we're seeing that is telling us that were getting ready to turn that corner," Gahler said.

The casualty count from the dangerous street drug is the most concerning to Gahler. Overdose deaths are up 115 percent from this same time last year.

"And we know, because of the autopsy reports, that's due to the synthetics.” Said Gahler. “That's due to fentanyl, that's due to carfentanil, at least two of our deaths here in Harford County."

The Sheriff's Office continues to go after the people pushing the heroin and possibly cutting it with the potent synthetic opioids.

However, each time one dealer is taken off the streets, another takes that spot. Gahler believes there needs to be harsher laws and tougher penalties.

"They don't care about taking individual's lives and that's ultimately what's going to happen with the product that they're selling,” he said. “They should be held accountable for that fact, and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law."

Something he's pushed for in Annapolis the last two years.