BALTIMORE - Drug and alcohol abuse in Baltimore is a very real issue. Last year more people died from overdoses then murder in the Charm City. Heroin is to blame for 143 of those lost lives.
"Heroin literally affects every single part of our city,” said Baltimore City Health Commissioner Dr. Leana Wen. “It's estimated that we have about 19,000 people in our city who are using heroin."
Last year it became legal for almost anyone to be trained to administer naloxone, also known as narcan. The prescription drug can reverse an opioid overdose, so the taskforce is researching how to get this antidote to the drug users.
"Unfortunately times change, but the problem doesn't, people are still suffering," David Zhitnitsky said.
And he should know. Zhitnitsky was hooked on heroin for four years. It took someone showing him help was out there for him to stop using.
"Luckily I had an angel, which was the needle exchange program,” said Zhitnitsky. “I was lucky enough to run into them, and they saved my life, they gave me another chance."
Connecting addicts with effective treatment is another huge part of what the taskforce is studying. And a lot of people battling the issue from the front lines were in the room.
"You shouldn't have to worry about whether you’re going to be arrested, you shouldn't have to worry about where you're going to get the medication from or all the other barriers,” said Kheninh Daniels with Maryland Recovery Organization Connecting Communities (M-ROCC). “And that's what the problem is now; we need to remove some of those barriers."
A second community meeting is planned for later this month or in early May. The taskforce plans to release its recommendations for action over the summer.
Addiction counselors, specialists and folks from the area came together Wednesday night to talk about the problem. The forum aims to help Mayor Stephanie Rawlings Blake’s Heroin Treatment and Prevention Taskforce come up with ideas about how to prevent opioid overdose deaths.
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