Train Track Heroin Market

Discarded syringes that previously were found near near train tracks in Philadelphia.  Workers have since cleaned up the open-air heroin market that has thrived for decades along a set of train tracks a few miles outside the heart of Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

A local organization committed to erasing the stigma surrounding drug addiction said the funding attached to President Donald Trump's declaration of opioids as public health crisis is "woefully inadequate."

Delaware is on pace to lose more than 220 lives to heroin and opioid overdoses by the end of the year, according to the latest numbers available. That's actually a decrease from last year’s pace, and Dave Humes with atTAcK Addiction attributed that to increased access to the life-saving antidote Naloxone.

But Humes said the $57,000 price tag that comes with President Trump's opioid emergency declaration isn't enough.

"The funding is really, totally insufficient. This is the public health crisis of the 21st century," he said. "If you just divide [the funding] by 50 states...I’m just incredulous that that's the plan."

He said America has spent far more on other public health issues that have had far less impact.

"We've lost, in this century, 600,000 Americans to this disease; when we're talking about Ebola, and we're talking about Zika virus, all of a sudden, money was flowing; we've lost one American citizen here in the United States to Ebola, I believe. One."

Fifty-four thousand Americans died from heroin or opioid overdoses in 2015; that number jumped almost 20 percent to 64,000 in 2016, according to federal statistics cited by Humes.

"We can't address the problem without funding it properly," said Humes.

He pointed to stigma being a big piece of the puzzle.

"When we look at it as an opioid/heroin problem...they focus on the heroin and the stigma of the heroin, and these are just bad people because they're using heroin, but what doesn't come into play...is the fact that 80 percent of injecting heroin users started out on either legally or illegally prescribed opiates."

"A lot of the problem is fighting this stigma that these people are just people that don't deserve help, they don't have a real disease, when we know that this is a chronic disease," he said. "There is hope, you can recover, but it’s chronic, and it's got to be continually monitored."

Humes said the U.S. is lacking in follow-up care for those who've already undergone long-term rehab to keep people on the journey towards recovery—which, for some, is a lifelong battle.

Amy Cherry is the Assistant News Director and an investigative journalist at WDEL. She joined WDEL's award-winning news team in 2010 from WBZ Newsradio 1030 in Boston and has received national accolades for reporting.