Heroin has been in Baltimore City for decades and being used by people in the suburbs of Maryland since the 1990's. And the length of time that the drug has been in our state has helped make the state a little more prepared to tackle the epidemic, says Christopher Welsh, Medical Director at the University of Maryland Medical Center Comprehensive Recovery Program.
Welsh and fellow associate professor of Psychiatry at Maryland, Eric Weintraub told WBAL News Radio 1090 that heroin addiction is a medical issue, not a criminal justice one.
Both men have worked with addicts for years in the Baltimore area.
Some local police departments in Maryland have opted to approach heroin users as addicts and not be so concerned about locking them up if they are responding to calls for help with an overdose.
"Our goal is to try and engage people in treatment so they can get better and get back on with their lives," says Weintraub.
He says when people are locked up they frequently aren't allowed to have treatment in jail. Many times when they come out of jail, people are at high risk of overdosing because they have no tolerance.
"We see a lot of people being released from prison and they die as soon as they get out because they go back and use the same amounts of heroin they used before but they don't have the same amount of tolerance," says Weintraub. They may also get a bad batch of heroin or fentanyl.
Six to eight hospitals in the city are now screening everyone for drug and alcohol use who enter the emergency room. State and federal grants are covering the costs of a majority of the screenings.
Welsh says those who may have a drug or alcohol issue can then be seen by a Peer Recovery Coaches at the hospital. He says they are not licensed counselors but people who are themselves in recovery and are trained in how to speak to other addicts about their problem. The hope is that person will then get into treatment for their addiction.[/FLOAT_LEFT][/FLOAT_LEFT]
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