The Howard County Health Department’s 2023 opioid overdose data summary reveals that fatal overdoses dropped from 41 in 2022 to 25 in 2023, a 39% decrease. Non-fatal overdoses also decreased by 37% to a five-year low of 70 in 2023.
Successes from 2023 that have helped facilitate this decrease include:
● Offering on-demand, virtual overdose response training opportunities to make Narcan more accessible to the public. This online class simplifies the process for someone to receive free Narcan from the Health Department, which can be used to reverse an opioid overdose and save a life. Since last July, the Health Department has trained more than 700 people to administer Narcan and distributed more than 750 Narcan kits.
● Providing in-person Narcan trainings for large groups, including the staffs at Merriweather Post Pavilion, the Howard County Public Library System and the Howard County Detention Center.
● The work by the Health Department Harm Reduction team in the community to meet people where they are. This includes Narcan distribution in areas of the County where overdoses are concentrated and providing needle exchange and safer use supplies, wound care and first aid kits, and hygiene supplies so participants can be empowered to reduce the harms associated with drug use.
● Connections made by Health Department Peer Support staff with community members to provide resource referrals to traditional drug treatment, supportive housing and other needs. Peers also work in the school system with youth who are struggling with substance misuse, and they are embedded at the hospital to respond to overdoses and provide support and counseling.
● Development of a GIS map that looks at various factors that may increase the risk of opioid use within each zip code in Howard County. This innovative look at the data in real-time helps the Health Department determine where outreach efforts should be focused to be most effective.
● Forging a partnership with the Maryland Pharmacists Association to begin working on messaging and support for the 84 pharmacies in Howard to decrease the burden on pharmacists in preparation for Narcan becoming available over the counter at pharmacies.
The Health Department continues to partner with community organizations to provide lifesaving Narcan training and distribute Narcan kits, including a presence at The Mall in Columbia and at select school events.
To continue the decline in overdoses and overdose deaths observed in 2023, planning is underway to develop an overdose dashboard that will include historic data and up-to-date calendar year overdose information. Historic Howard County opioid data updated with the latest numbers for 2023 can be viewed on www.howardcountymd.gov/health.