National News

Heroin overdose numbers in Harford Co. surpass all of last year

Posted August 22

— Shawn Martin didn't expect to be here.

He intended on becoming a grade school teacher. But he was introduced to heroin after a steady, gradual track starting with Ambien to help him sleep and progressing to the deadly drug.

"I didn't want them to live in a house where they locked all of their doors and they couldn't give me a key," Shawn said recalling the times where he and his family dealt with his addiction. "I didn't want to be in a situation where people have to say, 'this is when you have to go to bed, this is when you have to wake up, you're not welcome here anymore."

For the last four years, he's worked as a peer recovery coordinator in Harford County…sober.

Turning his life around after watching those closest to him break down.

He decided he wanted to change.

"That's, I think, the hardest thing is trying to reach people to say, 'your life is unmanageable. You're playing with your life," Dr. Julie Stancliff said.

She's the health director for Harford County. It's blunt words, Dr. Stancliff, says Shawn needed.

Many more do too, she says.

"It's sad. It saddens me. It's disturbing and I feel like we need to keep doing our job and doing it harder, longer, and as much as we can," Dr. Stancliff said.

The sign that marks the number of heroin overdoses in Harford County is nearly at 300. Eight more than all of last year.

Almost 60 of those overdoses have resulted in death.

Sheriff Jeff Gahler takes it personal.

"I didn't think we'd pass them this quickly. Again, behind every number is a human being – whether they're suffering from addiction or whether they've lost their life," he said.

A human being and not a statistic, Shawn says.

While adding his story is different from others, he's still teaching in a new way getting those who want it, the help they need.

"My world was so small. It was like a basement, a parking lot waiting to pick up drugs for hours on end. Now, it's become huge where I've gone to Chicago, Nashville, Miami, Tulum (Mexico). My life has changed," Shawn said.

The sheriff's department says a majority of the deaths on the sign were from overdoses linked to fentanyl or carfentanyl.

Sheriff Gahler plans on rolling out a new educational, 'conversation starter' that'll try to get people from using the deadly drug.

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