Columbia, MD – The Howard County Health Department released today a 2023 opioid overdose data summary, showing that fatal overdoses dropped from 41 in 2022 to 25 in 2023, a 39% decrease (Data source: HCPD). Non-fatal overdoses also decreased by 37% to a five-year low of 70 in 2023. Historic Howard County opioid data updated with the latest numbers for 2023 can be viewed on the Health Department website.

“This encouraging improvement in our opioid overdose rates shows that our prevention and harm reduction activities are having an impact in the community,” said Dr. Maura Rossman, Howard County Health Officer. “Looking forward, we will continue to strengthen existing relationships and develop new partnerships to provide support and continue on this positive trajectory.”

“These latest numbers are promising and encouraging, especially, with the United States having the world’s highest rate of opioid-involved deaths. We continue taking the necessary steps and finding the right solutions here in Howard County to expand access to treatment and recovery services, address the needs of our affected communities and tackle the underlying causes of drug use amongst our residents,” said Howard County Executive Calvin Ball. “I commend Dr. Rossman and her team for all they have done and continue to do, as partners, to address this public health issue.”

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 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.

“Preventing opioid overdoses and overdose deaths is an important priority for the Howard County Board of Health,” said Anthony C. Wisniewski, Chair of the Board of Health. “The data-driven and community-based solutions implemented by our Health Department have played a significant role in improving these trends after the concerning surges we observed at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.”

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. The Health Department also 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.

For more information about the Howard County Health Department Bureau of Behavioral Health opioid overdose prevention activities, visit Individuals seeking substance use referrals and resources can call 410-313-6240 or complete our online behavioral health navigation form.

Media Contacts
Lisa M. de Hernández, CCPH, MPIO, Director, Communications & Public Information

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