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April 16, 2021

Opioid deaths in Montgomery County rose 26% in 2020

Credit: Bethesda Beat, Dan Schere

Deaths from opioid intoxication in Montgomery County rose 26% — from 86 in 2019 to 108 — in 2020, according to a new report from the Maryland Opioid Operational Command Center.

The report, released on Tuesday, outlines a sharp increase in opioid-related deaths across Maryland in 2020.

Montgomery County’s opioid death increase mirrored that of the Capital Region (Montgomery, Prince George’s and Frederick counties), which recorded 326 opioid-related fatalities, compared to 247 in 2019.

Montgomery County, the most populous jurisdiction in Maryland, experienced the fifth most opioid-related deaths in 2020, according to the report. The top four were Baltimore City (954), Baltimore County (353), Anne Arundel County (224) and Prince George’s County (158).

Steven Schuh, the executive director of the Opioid Operational Command Center, wrote in his introductory message that the state’s 2,499 reported opioid deaths in 2020 are the most ever recorded.

He wrote that after a decrease in opioid deaths from 2018 to 2019, he worries that the COVID-19 pandemic “exacerbated” the challenges for people fighting addiction.

“While the full extent to which COVID-19 has contributed to an increase in substance misuse and related deaths of despair may not be known until further research can be done,” he wrote, “we know that vulnerable populations, such as people with substance use disorder (SUD), are bearing the brunt of the associated societal disruptions.”

U.S. Rep. David Trone (D-Md.), whose district represents parts of northwestern Montgomery County, said in a statement released by his office on Tuesday that “the consequences of this pandemic are real and long-lasting, and now is the time to double down on our efforts to help those who need it.”

“We need to start by increasing funding for mental health and substance use disorder prevention, treatment, recovery services, supporting the health care institutions and care centers providing addiction services, and widely deploying the life-saving drug naloxone,” he said.

Trone added that he is pleased that President Joe Biden has prioritized mental health and substance abuse disorder funding in the budget request he sent to Congress this week.

At the state level, Montgomery County will receive $160,552 in block grant funding to help combat addiction, according to the report. The money goes toward:

Support for public awareness campaigns

Community forums on opioid and substance misuse

Support to increase community and police access to naloxone, a medication aimed at reversing opioid addiction

Support for the Stop Triage Engage Educate Rehabilitate drug treatment program

Developing a database for treatment and peer support services