heroinseries (copy)

Heroin that is diluted or cut with an unknown substance sits in a spoon ready to be mixed with water. A common substance to cut heroin is the drug fentanyl, a powerful synthetic opioid.

In two months, Frederick County has seen 11 fatal opioid-related overdoses.

There have been 41 fatal overdoses, as of Sept. 3, according to statistics provided by the Frederick County Sheriff’s Office. There have been 194 non-fatal overdoses.

The recent numbers means the county is still facing an epidemic where a fatal overdose happens at least once a week, County Executive Jan Gardner said.

The drugs are getting stronger, she said, such as carfentanil and fentanyl, which have caused opioid-related overdoses to skyrocket since 2016.

“It also says we’re not making the progress we need to stop deaths in this county, even though we’re working hard,” Gardner said.

The county is on track to see numbers closer to those of 2016, said Dr. Barbara Brookmyer, director of the county’s health department. Brookmyer looks at the numbers provided by the state’s Department of Health, and while it only has numbers up until March, the first quarter painted a grim picture.

There were seven more deaths from drug and alcohol overdoses in the first quarter of 2018 compared to the first quarter of 2017. In 2017, there were 78 total fatal overdoses from all drugs and alcohol, which was a decrease of 10 from 2016, according to the state numbers.

So far in the first quarter, there has been 22 deaths from all drugs and overdoses. And while the numbers appear down from overdoses due to prescription opioids, there is a concerning uptick in deaths from fentanyl and cocaine, Brookmyer said.

According to recently published article in Science, it does not appear that the number of deaths in the county will be slowing down any time soon. The article in Science did not look at Frederick County specifically and it only looked at 1979 through 2016. But the national trends found by Dr. Hawre Jalal, a professor at University of Pittsburgh’s public health school, and authors suggest that the number of deaths in the country due to drugs will continue to rise.

Looking at individual drugs, Jalal and authors found that methadone and unspecified narcotics did not see a national rise in deaths. But every other examined drug did, including cocaine which had been on a decrease around 2006 until about 2011 or 2012, according to the study.

Unsurprisingly, synthetic opioids, like fentanyl or carfentanil, had a sharp increase in fatalities starting from 2013, while heroin had a large increase starting from 2010.

But when all the researchers examined the national deaths from drug use, the curve is increasing, without an indication of it plateauing. Looking at the curve, Jalal said he did not expect it to taper off anytime soon. That was a surprise, he said.

And while the data is not specific to Frederick County, the numbers reported by the sheriff’s office and the Department of Health suggest that Frederick is following national trends.

One reason that the epidemic continues to get worse is that people working to address the drug epidemic might not be targeting the right root causes. But Jalal said he does not know what those root causes are yet.

“That’s the million dollar question,” he said.

In Frederick, there are multiple players working to address the increasing deaths and non-fatal overdoses. There is training on naloxone, a drug that can reverse the fatal effects of an overdose provided by the health department, as well as other treatment services and awareness campaigns.

“We know that naloxone has been administered and saved lives,” Brookmyer said.

But Gardner and Brookmyer both said that the county needs more resources to better fight the epidemic. Gardner recently announced a possible location for a detoxification center, which she said would fill a gap in treatment for people who have a substance abuse disorder. But a project like that still costs $2 million.

Brookmyer said she would like to be able to provide more peer recovery services. The peers help a person on their recovery, from before entering a treatment program to concerns, like housing and employment, once someone exits a program, she said.

She’d also like to see more counseling services to address some of the underlying issues in substance abuse, like depression, anxiety and trauma. Brookmyer said some people turn to drugs or alcohol to self-medicate.

In addition to services, people need to address the stigma associated with drug or alcohol use. It’s a chronic problem, just like high blood pressure, and people do not always stick to their treatment regiments, whether it is substance abuse problem or high blood pressure, Brookmyer said.

And people need to treat those with substance abuse disorder as they would someone who was diagnosed with cancer, she said.

“When we can lean in and help folks, we’ll be a stronger community overall,” Brookmyer said.

Follow Heather Mongilio on Twitter: @HMongilio.

Fatal and non-fatal opioid overdoses, according to the Frederick County Sheriff’s Office

Year Fatal Opioid Overdoses Non-fatal Opioid Overdoses Total
2018 (year to date( 41 194 235
2017 51 291 342
2016 54 355 409
2015 19 121 140
2014 28 85 113
2013 19 45 64
2012 6 15 21

Fatal opioid overdoses in Frederick County, according to the state Department of Health

Year Fatal opioid overdoses
2018 (first quarter) 21
2017 66
2016 80
2015 37
2014 34
2013 33
2012 23

Total drug and alcohol fatal overdoses, according to the state Department of Health

Year Fatal Overdoses
2018 (first quarter) 22
2017 78
2016 88
2015 40
2014 42
2013 37
2012 26

Heather Mongilio is the health and Fort Detrick reporter for the Frederick News-Post. She can be reached at hmongilio@newspost.com.

(23) comments


Karl Bickel for Sheriff


And, once again, typical ignorant comments from the I Hate Sheriff Jenkins Club. Pitiful.......


I don't hate him, I just want to hold him accountable for things he said he would do. It's been eight years now? Where are the improvements? Is he focusing on the primary issues or the political issues?


The word is BOUNTY!!! Advertise to the County public a $35k reward on solid information of very top dealers, $25k top dealers and $10k on small time dealers. Have our GROWING business industry pitch-in. The $1k-2k now is insulting and know one will volunteer their safety for it. The dealers out there for this kind of money will turn into a pack of dogs on each other and start eliminating each other in the process and when I say eliminating, better to see the cause go down instead of an innocent one.

Comment deleted.

Who is “protecting ms-13”??


The sherf is far too busy fear mongering regarding 13 and rousting decent hardworking people to address a national epidemic. Vote Bickel!


Jenkins went down to Texas to patrol the Rio Grande River, what good did that do. The opioid epidemic just got worse. Maybe Jenkins should stay in Frederick County, where he is paid to do his job.


Addicts are breeding with addicts and popping out more addicts...

Comment deleted.

I hate spammers


Jenkins has been too busy rounding up MS- 13 gang members. But he is the only one that knows that they are a problem. Grubb told Jenkins they are not a problem. Jenkins knows it he is just fabricating to scare people.


More danger in gang members than people doing this to themselves. There are lots of organizations around Frederick helping with this exact issue, even some being run from the hospital. The county has done a lot, but this isn't a "solvable" issue.

Comment deleted.

How many MS-13 murders have occurred in the county in the past year versus overdose deaths?


And where did the MS-13 murders that took place in Frederick county originate?

And exactly how many ms-13 murders have happened in Frederick county over the last five years?


One link (WTOP) that includes Frederick County https://wtop.com/montgomery-county/2018/08/ms-13-gang-member-gets-2-life-sentences-for-murder-violent-crimes/


Link to another WTOP article with a different suspect: https://wtop.com/frederick-county/2018/02/us-marshals-seek-suspected-ms-13-gang-member/


A Newsweek article: https://www.newsweek.com/ms-13-gangs-crime-baltimore-maryland-1016591 ... Two dozen people with alleged ties to the MS-13 gang have been charged with violent racketeering, money-laundering conspiracies and murder, according to a statement from the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

The six-count indictment claims that 24 alleged MS-13 gang members engaged in murders, conspiracies to commit murder, attempted murders, kidnapping, extortion, robbery, money laundering and drug trafficking from 2015 through 2017 in Maryland, according to the statement from July 2. The defendants listed are accused of murdering five people in Frederick, Anne Arundel and Montgomery counties in Maryland, according to the statement. Some are also accused of kidnapping and murdering Jennifer Rivera-Lopez, 21, who was reportedly found dismembered and found in Crownsville, Maryland, WBFF reported.

Twenty-one people have been accused of conspiracy to participate in a racketeering enterprise with the MS-13.... Just because you don't read it doesn't mean it is not happening.

Comment deleted.

Yeah, that means Grubb isn't too or else you are just defending the one that made this a campaign issue.


Gdunn is correct, dick.

Jenkins HAS NOT been rounding up ms-13 gang members. He is claiming ms-13 activity as a justification for the defunct 287g program.

Furthermore, 8 years ago Jenkins promised during his campaigning to “go after the gangs”. And to this day that promise has not happened

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