Thirteen people have died in Harford County after overdosing on heroin this year. According to the Harford County Sheriff's Office, there were three fatal overdoses and one non-fatal overdose in just 19-hours on Saturday.
The updated statistic is being displayed on signs in front of Harford County Sheriff's precincts. It's one of the many ways officials are working to raise awareness about the heroin epidemic in the county. The climbing numbers also show that making headway when tackling this issue is something that will take time.
“It could be 5-10 years before we really succeed in stopping this epidemic," said Harford County Executive Barry Glassman.
But he said his office hasn't been sitting idly by. In the past 18 months, the Hartford County Sheriff's Office, county executive, health department, and school system have teamed up to launch prevention and detection programs. Glassman said his department is working with school officials to actively educate children about the dangers of heroin, but that more money is needed to fund treatment.
“Really none of the federal legislation to this point has provided treatment dollars and our local health departments have been asked to do more with less,” Glassman said.
Linda Williams is the executive director of Addiction Connections Resource, a non-profit organization that helps connect those addicted to resources. She agreed that there's no one-way in tackling this epidemic but that affordable treatment plays a big role.
“You have to attack it from every angle. We need education, prevention, early detection, accessible, quality treatment and the insurance companies need to step-up” Williams said.
She said treatment is especially vital when the addicts drug of choice is heroin.
“An addiction is an addiction but heroin to me is sort of a different animal, and it affects the brain so strongly that they really have a hard time getting away from the drug,” said Williams.
Her daughter died of an overdose several years ago, and tells parents is to do whatever it takes to save their child.
“Most parents don't know you can go to the pharmacy and get drug tests. You have a right to test your child, you're saving their lives, don't worry about insulting them that you don't trust them or whatever. You could be saving their lives the earlier you go and detect this,” Williams said.
The county's ultimate goal is to keep kids from ever trying heroin.
“We've been successful in going into the middle schools and high schools so I think one piece of the strategy is trying to get to the next generation to make sure they don't ever start,” said Glassman.
Police ask anyone in need of help, or anyone who would like to speak with a recovery coach at the Harford County Health Department to call 410-877-2347.