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Heroin crisis: From addict to advocate

(WBFF)

BALTIMORE (WBFF) - Jenine Bates works with recovering addicts at Chase Brexton's Mt. Vernon Center. Bates is a peer advocate, which means that when patients want to talk to someone who's been there, they talk to her.

For more than 32 years, Bates used a variety of drugs, but heroin almost killed her. She overdosed once, but even that wasn't enough to get her to stop using. Nor was intervention from her family.

"The tears were coming down (my father's) eyes, and I'm like, 'I wish he would hurry up so I could go do some heroin,'" she recalls.

But 21 years ago, she got help, and she considers herself lucky that she's not one of the hundreds who will die this year in Baltimore, the capital of the nation's heroin epidemic.

According to the City Health Commissioner Dr. Leana Wen, about 25,000 Americans die annually from opioid overdoses. Between 2002 and 2013, the rate of those dying from opioid-related overdoses has nearly quadrupled.

Wen has called it a public health emergency, and says reducing overdose deaths through the use of naloxone, reducing the stigma, and getting users treatment on demand are the keys to turning around those numbers.

"If you were dying from a heart attack today we would never say, 'Wait three weeks or three months. And maybe if you don't die by then, we can get you into treatment.' So, treatment on demand is critically important," says Wen.

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