Ho­gan an­nounces tac­tics against opi­oid ad­dic­tion

Maryland Independent - - Front Page - By JACOB TAY­LOR

AN­NAPO­LIS — Gov. Larry Ho­gan and Lt. Gov. Boyd Ruther­ford an­nounced Tues­day they are rolling out new legis- la­tion that would counter Maryland’s grow­ing opi- oid ad­dic­tion cri­sis.

The Pre­scriber Lim­its Act would pre­vent doc­tors from pre­scrib­ing more than seven days worth of opi­oid painkillers dur­ing a pa­tient’s first visit or con­sul­ta­tion. The law ex­empts pa­tients go­ing through can­cer treat­ment and those di­ag­nosed with a ter­mi­nal ill­ness.

The Distri­bu­tion of Opi-

oids Re­sult­ing in Death Act would in­tro­duce a new felony charge car­ry­ing up to 30 years in prison for peo­ple con­victed of il­le­gally sell­ing opi­oids or opi­oid ana­logues that re­sult in the death of a user. Ruther­ford said the law would carry pro­tec­tions for peo­ple who were sell­ing to sup­port their ad­dic­tion.

And the Over­dose Pre­ven­tion Act au­tho­rizes the col­lec­tion of and re­view of non-fa­tal over- dose data and would make it eas­ier for peo­ple to fill prescriptions for nalox­one, a drug that can coun­ter­act the ef­fects of an opi­oid over­dose.

Ho­gan and Ruther­ford, whom the gov­er­nor has di­rect- ed to fo­cus on opi­oid ad­dic­tion, an­nounced the leg­is­la­tion in a press con­fer­ence at Anne Arun­del Med­i­cal Cen­ter on Tues­day.

Ruther­ford also an­nounced that the gov­er­nor would sign an ex­ec­u­tive or­der that will cre­ate an Opi­oid Op­er­a­tions Com­mand Cen­ter — a “vir­tual” task force charged with or­ga­niz­ing train­ing and fund­ing for local anti-ad­dic- tion teams as well as col­lect­ing data on opi­oid use and abuse.

Ho­gan said that he did not fully ap­pre­ci­ate the scope of the opi­oid epi­demic un­til he be­gan criss­cross­ing Maryland dur­ing the early phases of his gu­ber- na­to­rial cam­paign. He said he asked peo­ple in dif­fer­ent parts of the state what their com­mu­nity’s big­gest prob­lem was and that, re­gard­less of whether they were from a ru­ral, ur­ban, wealthy, or poor com­mu­nity, “the an­swer was al­ways the same: heroin.”

Both Ho­gan and Ruther­ford ap­peared op­ti­mistic but ac- knowl­edged that the prob­lem of opi­oid ad­dic­tion is wors­en­ing in Maryland. Anne Arun­del County Ex­ec­u­tive Steve Schuh said that, at the start of his ten­ure a cou­ple years ago, there was one over­dose per day and one death per week from opi- oid abuse in his county. He said those fig­ures have risen to two over­doses per day and two and a half deaths per week.

At the press con­fer­ence, Anne Arun­del State’s At­tor­ney Wes Adams (R) spoke about the re- cent death of his brother-in-law, who he said died of an opi­oid over­dose.

Adams said his brother-in-law be­came ad­dicted to opi­oids af- ter be­ing pre­scribed them fol­low­ing a surgery about eight years ago. He said he moved in and out of re­hab cen­ters and pe- ri­od­i­cally be­came clean, only to re­lapse later.

Adams lamented the ob­sta­cles from the med­i­cal and in­sur­ance in­dus­tries that he and his fam­ily faced as they tried to keep his brother-in-law in treat­ment.

He also ex­pressed con­ster­na­tion over re­cently be­ing pre­scribed a sub­stan­tial sup­ply of Oxy­con­tin, an opi­oid pain-killer, fol­low­ing a med­i­cal pro­ce­dure, de­spite telling his doc­tor that he was only ex­pe­ri­enc­ing mod­er­ate pain.

He said an­grily that the only ma­jor side-ef­fect his phar­ma­cist warned him of was con­sti­pa­tion, de­spite the well-doc­u­mented risk of ad­dic­tion that use of the drug car­ries.

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