Heroin Highway: Part 5 - Hagerstown, Md. 'Round the clock emergency'

Heroin Highway: Part 5 - Hagerstown, Md. "Round The Clock Emergency" (ABC7)

The news from Hagerstown wasn't good. On February 19, city health officials reported the number of heroin overdoses to which EMS crews and city police responded to stood at 40 so far for the month.

Hagerstown sits in the middle of the "Heroin Highway," a section of Interstates 70 and 81 police nicknamed after a surge of heroin related overdoses and deaths began to plague the area.


As we hit the streets of Hagerstown, we met Michelle McCrory whose family had been forever impacted by the deadly drug.

She explained, "I lost my last brother to heroin. He overdosed about five or six months ago."

Hope, a recovering heroin addicted explained the strength of the drug's pull. She said, "You usually sleep with your shoes because you don't want to have nowhere between time, you gotta get your next fix."

Like so many other suburban communities, Hagerstown can't escape heroin's hook with community emergency crews running to a minimum of two heroin overdoses every two hours.

Hagerstown community rescue services Captain Dennis Browne explained, "We see heroin overdoses all throughout our city. When our crews arrive on scene we encounter a patient who is unresponsive or not breathing."

Look no further than the increasing use of Narcan, a plastic tube of nasal spray that reverses the effects of opioid drugs.

"Usually within a minute they start breathing," said Browne.

In 2013, Hagerstown EMS crews administered Narcan 122 times.

In 2014, that number increased to 172 times.

In 2015, the number leaped to 234 times.

State Delegate Brett Wilson who represents Washington County said, "As much better as we've gotten at treating the potential end of life scenario we don't have a catch program to then bring that person into treatment and we are working on it."


Maryland State Police captain Mike Fluharty is in charge of the state's western troops.

"It has become the heroin highway," he explained.

His troopers look any signs of the drug trafficking along the roads along with drivers who behind the wheel and under the influence.

"Right now we can say with confidence that we can track anywhere from three to five kilos of heroin coming up and down Interstate 70, I-81 to our area in Hagerstown and Martinsburg every month," he said.

And the traffickers are from everywhere. Fluharty said, "We are seeing people as far south as Mexico traveling over and getting on I-81."

Heroin isn't grown in the United States. We met with Special Agent in Charge of the Washington Field Division of the DEA, Karl Colder.

He explained, "Identifying the players and chasing it back to the source countries is what we do."

Colder pointed to poppy farms in Colombia and Mexico as sources of the heroin that ends up in cities like Baltimore, a decades-old heroin stronghold, just 74 miles up the road from Hagerstown.

"It's estimated $1.5 million a day comes out of Baltimore directly from heroin," explained James Pyles, a retired Maryland State Police major who once led the statewide criminal fight against heroin.

"The purity levels are the highest we have ever seen," explained Pyles.

Delegate summed it up, "It is really is a public health issue."

As Hope the recovering addict shined a light on the future for any addict.

We asked if addicts can truly kick heroin, "Yeah, they can it, but you know, I mean, they just need help."


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