Opioids continue to haunt
As candidate, Hogan vowed to take on ‘epidemic.’ Yet deaths soared
When Larry Hogan ran for governor four years ago, he vowed to urgently address what he called Maryland’s “heroin epidemic.”
“It’s a major disaster,” the Republican said during an October 2014 debate. “In January, I will immediately declare a state of emergency.”
At the time, Maryland was approaching 888 opioid overdose deaths for the year, a then-record pace that Hogan was blaming on ineffective efforts by his Democratic predecessor, Gov. Martin O’Malley.
But upon taking office in January 2015, Hogan did not immediately declare a formal emergency. Instead, he set up a statewide task force that worked for a year to deliver 33 recommendations. As administration officials rolled out the strategies during 2016, opioid fatalities mounted to 1,856 people that year — a death count that ranked Maryland fourth among the 50 states for such per-capita drug fatalities.
In all, 6,139 Marylanders died of opioidrelated overdoses from the start of Hogan’s term through June 2018, a period of three years and six months. That’s more than the 5,019 who died during O’Malley’s eight years in office.
“It’s been very frustrating,” Hogan said this month. “I don’t have a magic solution. We’ve tried everything.”
The task force recommendations called for such things as expanding treatment and curbing prescription abuse, but was criticized for lacking specifics on costs.
The governor’s current point man on the opioid crisis, Clay Stamp, acknowledges that the state’s initial strategy faltered as a surge in the use of deadly fentanyl — which was not a major concern four years ago — more than stripped away some progress achieved in reducing fataliSee OPIOIDS, page 20 6,139 people in Maryland have died of opioid-related overdoses from the start of Gov. Larry Hogan’s term in January 2015 through June of this year.