REISTERSTOWN, MD -- Maryland Governor Larry Hogan declared the spike in deaths from heroin and prescription drug overdoses to be a State of Emergency and dedicated $50 million dollars in new funding to combat the crisis.
“We need to treat this crisis the exact same way we would treat any other state emergency," said Hogan.
The $50 million will be spread out over five years to support prevention, recovery, and enforcement initiatives. By declaring a state of emergency, Hogan said it will give "..emergency powers to state and local emergency management officials, enabling them to fast-track coordination among state and local agencies and community organizations..."
Through the third quarter of 2016, the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene reported over 1,800 deaths from overdoses from heroin, fentanyl, or prescription drugs.
"Yes! Thank God!" said Glen Burnie, Md. mother Sharon Dunnigan in response to the declaration and funding. Her family has been dealing with the crisis for the past two-and-a-half years. Dunnigan said that's when they found out their, now 20-year-old, daughter, Jessica, was addicted to heroin. "It started with prescription pills. A friend said, 'Here, try this.' and she did and then it was downhill from there."
Dunnigan said her daughter has been in and out of rehab and relapsed only two weeks ago. Dunnigan added she's using her own experience to warn other parents about the dangers of prescription drugs and heroin by taking part in Anne Arundel County's "Not My Child" program.
"There is a serious problem and not to think that it would never happen to your child because I am one of those parents," said Dunnigan.
For both Dunnigan and the Hogan administration, the goal is to save lives.
"Working together to finally begin to turn the tide in this difficult fight," said Hogan.
"It’s a very destructive disease and it’s destroying your family. It’s destroying our family," said Dunnigan.