Larry Hogan

Anne Arundel County to Declare Heroin Health Emergency

Anne Arundel County's executive says he's going to declare a public health emergency as soon as next week in response to the "heroin epidemic'' in the region, citing a growing number of deaths related to the highly addictive opioid.

County Executive Steve Schuh said Thursday that heroin is affecting residents of all races, ages and income levels.

"It's north, south, east, west . you name it, it's there,'' he said. "It's absolutely everywhere. And it's going to get worse if we don't go after it in a very serious way.''

Schuh made those comments during a meeting of the BWI Business Partnership, an organization that brings together local, state and federal government agencies.

Schuh cited statistics showing that there were 26 heroin-related deaths in Anne Arundel County in the first 26 weeks of 2014. That's more than half the total heroin-related deaths in all of 2013.

"There is now a fatality a week from heroin in Anne Arundel County,'' Schuh said.

The Capital reports that Schuh's emergency declaration will coincide with a similar statewide declaration expected from Gov. Larry Hogan.

Schuh has already formed a heroin task force that includes officials from the police, fire and health departments, social services, the sheriff's department, the state's attorney's office, and other county and city agencies. The task force, formed two weeks ago, is working on recommendations but does not yet have a date when it will present those recommendations to Schuh.

County police Chief Tim Altomare told The Capital that the availability of heroin in the Annapolis area has drawn drug addicts from Southern Maryland, while north county communities have long had to deal with the problem because of their proximity to Baltimore and illegal drug suppliers there.

Altomare said that as enforcement efforts concentrated on the Annapolis area over the last year, street-level distribution has been pushed farther north.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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