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NEW CASTLE, Del. (AP) - Health officials in Delaware say a surge in fentanyl-related overdose deaths drove the state's overall overdose deaths past 300 last year.

In a statement released Tuesday, the Division of Forensic Science said it confirmed the presence of fentanyl, a synthetic painkiller up to 50 times more potent than heroin, in more than a third of the 308 overdoses in Delaware in 2016. Officials say 228 people died from overdoses in Delaware in 2015.

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RICHMOND, Va. (AP) - The drug fentanyl caused more deaths in Virginia last year than any other prescription painkiller.

The Richmond Times Dispatch reports that the number of deaths caused by fentanyl rose from 48 in 2007 to 134 in 2014. Last year, the death was linked to an estimated 221 deaths in the state.

That's more than any other opioid besides heroin.

Fentanyl is prescribed by doctors and comes in a patch that's placed on the skin. Addicts have learned to isolate the drug from the patch and snort or inject the drug.

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The Maryland Governor’s task force on the heroin epidemic has handed in its recommendations which includes a needle exchange program.

In addition, the panel calls for the stepping up treatment programs as well as providing support services for pregnant women with substance abuse problems.

The panel also recommended legislation that would require prescribers and dispensers of drugs to register with and use the state’s Prescription Drug Monitoring Program...for drugs containing an opiod or benzodiazephine.

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ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) - A bill to repeal mandatory minimum prison sentences for certain drug-related charges has cleared the Maryland House of Delegates.

Supporters said the bill would give judges more freedom to determine an appropriate sentence for someone found guilty of certain drug charges. Delegates passed the measure 85-55. 

Bill sponsor Del. Curtis Anderson, a Baltimore City Democrat, said the measure allows judges to consider drug treatment for a person, rather than having current law dictate how long they must sentence someone to time behind bars.

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NEW CASTLE, Del. (AP) - Delaware officials say there have been a total of six overdose deaths related to fentanyl-laced heroin this year.

The Office of the Chief Medical Examiner announced Friday that toxicology reports confirm the fentanyl-laced heroin overdose deaths of four men and two women ranging in age from 28 to 58. The deaths occurred over a period of about two weeks in March and April in New Castle and Sussex counties.