Three people have died in a string of opiate overdoses during a daylong stretch this week in Anne Arundel County.
Police spokesman Lt. Ryan Frashure said there were 16 reported overdoses in the county in less than 24 hours, the majority of which were in the northern and western regions of the county.
The first case was reported at 8:42 a.m. Tuesday while the last came at 3:43 a.m. Wednesday. In Glen Burnie, one person died and five overdosed on opioids, Frashure said. Linthicum and Pasadena each saw one person die as a result of an overdose.
Despite the spike, Frashure cautioned it may not be endemic of a particularly lethal heroin product circulating in Anne Arundel County.
“There’s nothing that indicates there’s a strain or a bad batch, for a lack of better words,” Frashure said.
The Anne Arundel County Department of Health raised the possibility of dangerously potent drugs for sale.
“So many overdoses in a short period of time often indicate that the illegal or prescription drugs currently being sold are very potent and are more likely to cause an overdose,” the department said in a statement.
In 2017, the county has seen 212 overdoses overall, with 24 of those being fatal, Frashure said. This comes on the heels of a record-setting 2016, which the Anne Arundel County Police Department said saw 119 people die from opiate-related overdoses.
The spike in overdoses comes against the backdrop of county and state officials making a push to combat what some consider an epidemic of heroin use in Maryland.
Gov. Larry Hogan and Lt. Gov. Boyd Rutherford introduced a package of legislative proposals in January to tackle the problem that are being reviewed in the General Assembly.
With Anne Arundel County State’s Attorney Wes Adams and County Executive Steve Schuh supporting him, Hogan rolled out a number of measures, including stricter limits on prescribing opiates and harsher penalties for dealers who sell drugs that lead to a fatal overdose.
Schuh has made addressing the heroin problem a priority since his election in 2014. He declared a state of emergency in December 2014 and assembled a special task force to focus on the issue.
In a statement, county police Chief Timothy Altomare said he supports increasing the penalty for dealers found to have sold illegal drugs leading to a death.
“One of the major holes in our criminal law has been the need for enhanced criminal charges and sentencing for a drug dealer who sold heroin that killed someone,” Altomare said. “This legislation closes that loop and will make us more effective in targeting the killers poisoning our communities one life at a time.”