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Baltimore At Forefront Of $1B Plan To Fight Drug Abuse

BALTIMORE (WJZ) -- It's a threat the president says is on par with terrorism--America's growing battle with painkiller addiction.

Now the feds are seeking more than $1 billion to try to save lives. A prominent Baltimore health official is at the forefront.

Meghan McCorkell has more on the proposal.

An estimated 78 Americans die from opioid overdoses every day. Now the White House is taking action.

Daniel Torsch, 24, of Perry Hall died of a heroin overdose in 2010.

"I feel like our family was given a life sentence of grief," his mother, Toni Torsch, said.

Torsch--one of thousands of Marylanders to lose their lives to opioid addiction. There were 887 killed in the state in 2014 alone.

"I'm very proud to represent the Baltimore City Heath Department," said Dr. Leana Wen, Baltimore City Health Commissioner.

Now City Health Commissioner Dr. Leana Wen is speaking out to President Obama during a drug abuse panel about the difficulties patients have finding treatment.

"We would never say that to someone who has a heart attack. We would never say, 'Go home. And if you haven't died in three weeks, come back and get treated,'" said Dr. Wen.

The president has proposed a $1.1 billion plan to fight drug abuse.

"The only way that we reduce demand is if we're providing treatment and thinking about this as a public health problem," the president said.

In Baltimore, local clinics say they are seeing more and more people seeking help.

"We are here because we do believe that we can make a change, that we can make a positive impact and really start turning this epidemic around," said Barbara Wahl, Concerted Care Group.

At Concerted Care Group, more patients are walking through the doors each day.

While Baltimore has been at the forefront of the issue...

"I do believe that we're only beginning to see the tip of the iceberg in that there are so many other patients that aren't being treated that really do need it," said Dr. Erika Kane, Concerted Care Group.

That's why more funding is so desperately needed.

The feds also plan to provide $11 million to states for the life-saving drug naloxone.

Over a six month period, Baltimore City police saved 21 overdose patients using naloxone.

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