NEW DATA: Heroin-Related Deaths Increase 54 Percent In Maryland - 47 ABC - Delmarva's Choice

NEW DATA: Heroin-Related Deaths Increase 54 Percent In Maryland

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MARYLAND - New data from the health department says heroin-related deaths increased by 54 percent from 2011 to 2012, jumping from 245 to 378 total deaths. According to some Wicomico County officials, they see their fair share as well.

"It's a big problem in this community because it's a terribly addictive narcotic drug," says Matt Maciarello, state's attorney for Wicomico County.

Maciarello says national statistics show 87 percent of all crime is drug related, and Wicomico County has a lot of nuisance crimes that are related to a person's heroine addiction.

"They become one person crime waves, where we see one person is responsible for several break-ins. They're not themselves, they will actually steal from their own mother or brother, they'll commit acts that are contrary to their normal programming."

As WMDT recently reported in Delaware, prescription drug abuse appears to be at the root of the heroin problem in Maryland as well.

"Prescription drug abuse has led to heroin abuse if they aren't able to get prescriptions," says Heather Brown, director of Wicomico Behavioral Health Authority.

"It's actually cheaper for them to obtain heroine because it's about $20 for about two-tenths of a gram, which is what a heroine user needs for a fix," says Maciarello.

Fighting this growing problem is a combined effort. Maciarello says he meets with the Heather Brown at least once a month.

"We want to make sure that our policies are in line with their policies and what we're doing is not causing a greater problem from a health stand point. This is a law enforcement issue, but it is just as much a health issue."

Brown says they have been recently working with the state in developing an overdose prevention plan, to create different initiatives and ways to further assist individuals in the community to help prevent future overdoses. They are also working to develop an "overdose fatality review team" team, which will bring together professions from law enforcement, community providers, pharmacists, doctors and more.

"We can look at an individual who has unfortunately died due to an overdose and what those circumstances were, and then develop ways that maybe we can work towards preventing that in the future."

Maciarello says that for drug users, there is also a "drug court" program, which he describes as "probation on steroids," in which users are getting the sentence, but also healing and getting better.

"They can kick their addiction and they can change their lifestyle, change their surroundings, and move on so their not a problem for the citizens of Wicomico County."

The state's attorney's office is also warning that when they catch drug dealers, their prosecutors will file for mandatory minimum penalties, and if it's a dealer's second offense, it's a 10 year mandatory minimum sentence, without the possibility of parole.

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