Steven R. Schuh, executive director of Maryland’s Opioid Operational Command Center, said 13 of the state’s 24 jurisdictions saw fewer opioid-related deaths. Ten jurisdictions reported increases, including Talbot County, with six more deaths than a year ago, and Baltimore City and Kent County, each with five more deaths than in the first half of 2018.
Baltimore City, Baltimore County and Anne Arundel County had the highest number of opioid-related fatalities, collectively accounting for 66.8 percent of all such deaths in Maryland in the first half of 2019.
Schuh said in a statement that he was encouraged by the preliminary data, but he acknowledged that “the heroin and opioid crisis in Maryland is by no means over.”
The state plans to spend $747 million in fiscal 2020 on opioid-related programs, up from $674 million this fiscal year. State spending on opioid-related programs has jumped by nearly 68 percent in the past three years.
“While we know there is still much work to be done with regard to this epidemic, the decline of heroin- and opioid-related deaths over the first two quarters of 2019 gives us hope that we are on the right track,” Lt. Gov. Boyd Rutherford (R), who leads the state Heroin and Opioid Emergency Task Force, said in a statement.
The six-month tally is similar to the 12-month total in 2015, when 1,089 people died, and nearly double the number of fatalities in 2009. Last year, 2,143 people suffered opioid-related deaths.
Maryland also experienced a drop in the deaths caused by fentanyl, a powerful synthetic opioid, in the first six months of 2019 as compared with the same period in 2018.
There were 942 fentanyl-related deaths from January to June 2019, 7.8 percent fewer than in the first half of 2018.