Plans to Declare Public Health Emergency in Md. for "Heroin Epid - WBOC-TV 16, Delmarvas News Leader, FOX 21 -

Plans to Declare Public Health Emergency in Md. for "Heroin Epidemic"

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SALISBURY, Md. (AP/WBOC) - Wicomico County leaders are supporting Governor Larry Hogan's stance on the state's heroin problem. 

Heroin is deemed an epidemic in Maryland because of the number of Deaths linked to the highly addictive drug. Governor Larry Hogan said in December he would declare a State of Emergency when he was sworn into office, with hopes of gaining federal funding to fight the problem. 

In 2013, 464 people died from heroin overdoses in Maryland. That's an 88 percent increase from 2011. It's a problem Wicomico County Sheriff Mike Lewis says is all too real.

"I just went to a funeral this past Saturday here in Wicomico County for a little girl who died last week of a heroin overdose, something that's decimated her family, it's devastated her friends, it's devastated our community, "said Lewis.

Sheriff Lewis says it's a very complicated and difficult battle to fight on the front lines.

"There are many people that are crying out for help," said Sheriff Lewis. "But there are just as many people who don't want our help. They don't want our intervention. They enjoy being a heroin addict. They enjoy being on the cusp of death."

Governor Larry Hogan is expected to announce a state of emergency to fight Maryland's heroin epidemic. WBOC asked him about it in December when he visited the Eastern Shore.

"We're just going to shine more of a light on it and see if we can't bring the smartest minds in the state with respect to drug rehab folks and treatment," said Governor Hogan.

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 Shuh says heroin is affecting residents of all races, ages and income levels. He says "it's absolutely" everywhere and the problem will get even worse if it's not taken seriously.

Shuh cites 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.

Wicomico County Executive Bob Culver says he, along with Wicomico County Health Officer Lori Brewster, Wicomico County State's Attorney Matt Maciarello, and Sheriff Lewis, fully support Governor Hogan's decision to declare a state of emergency. 

In a statement, Culver says "Local county officials have been engaged for some time in developing strategies to combat this ever-growing threat to our society." 

"This is something we deal with every single week," said Sheriff Lewis. "We have the right partners in place, but there needs to be greater collaboration to address this regional issue." 

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