Howard County Executive Allan Kittleman announced a unique partnership with Aetna to combat the ongoing opioid crisis by training county employees in the use of naloxone kits donated by the Aetna Foundation. The foundation delivered 408 Narcan kits (the brand name for naloxone) to Howard County, the first donation of its kind to a county in Maryland. The kits, valued at more than $30,000, will be located in every Automated External Defibrillator (AED) box in county-owned buildings.

“We are battling the worst drug epidemic in U.S. history, and Howard County, like communities across the country, is experiencing the horrific impact of this crisis every day,” said Kittleman. “Tragically, we have already lost 55 residents this year to overdoses. But 161 lives have been saved, and in 90% of the cases, it’s because of naloxone.”

Kittleman committed to giving administrative leave to any employee who signs up for naloxone training. County police and fire department personnel are trained in the use of naloxone and carry it when responding to calls. And the county’s Health Department has trained more than 2,000 individuals, from motel and treatment center staff to concerned family members and friends.

According to the Howard County Health Department, heroin-related overdose deaths here have more than quadrupled since 2010. Kittleman said the county continues to ramp up its response to the crisis, having hired a full-time heroin coordinator at the police department, adding an opioid project administrator at the health department and increasing the availability of crisis intervention services through the Grassroots Crisis Center.

The county is also working to secure a site to build a detox and residential treatment facility and hiring a Behavioral Health Court Liaison to improve access to community resources for individuals involved in the criminal justice system.