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Health officials seek to address Md. drug overdoses

ELKTON — Maryland officials on Friday met to talk about plans to reduce deaths from drug overdoses by 20 percent statewide by the end of 2015.

Gov. Martin O’Malley joined federal, state and local officials at a discussion on the problem in Elkton in Cecil County. Last month, the state health department announced that the number of overdose deaths in Maryland increased 15 percent from 2011 to 2012, following declines between 2007 and 2011. The increase was driven by a 54 percent rise in heroin-related deaths.

Cecil County had the second-highest overdose death rate, behind Baltimore.

“We’re losing more Marylanders to heroin alone than to homicides — and the need is especially great in Cecil County,” O’Malley said.

Dr. Joshua Sharfstein, Maryland’s health secretary, said it is important for communities to work together to address the serious public health problem of drug overdoses.

“The collaboration between public safety and public health agencies is a powerful partnership for combating the problem of drug overdoses,” said Tammy Brown, executive director of the Governor’s Office of Crime Control and Prevention. “While law enforcement can work to stop drug traffickers, the medical community can work to prevent or treat addiction. It is an effective combination for good in Maryland.”