Open­ing salvo against over­dose deaths

Maryland Independent - - Community Forum -

Gov. Larry Ho­gan (R) has de­clared a state of emer­gency, and it’s not be­cause of a re­cent nat­u­ral dis­as­ter where lives were lost, but rather due to an epi­demic that is tak­ing lives at a ram­pant rate.

Opi­oid over­dose deaths are on the rise not only in Mary­land, but na­tion­ally. As we re­ported re­cently, the Mary­land De­part­ment of Health and Men­tal Hy­giene re­ported that from Jan­uar y through Septem­ber 2016, num­bers of over­dose fa­tal­i­ties saw a sharp spike com­pared to the pre­vi­ous pe­riod in 2015. Charles County saw the great­est leap in num­bers with 34 un­in­ten­tional drug and al­co­hol in­tox­ica- tion-re­lated deaths — ap­prox­i­mately a 227 per­cent jump from the 15 fa­tal­i­ties recorded dur­ing this time in 2015, the data in­di­cates. Com­para­tively, Calvert County with 18 fa­tal­i­ties and St. Mary’s County with 12 each in­creased by two deaths. Col­lec­tively as a state, Mary­land saw 1,468 fa­tal­i­ties through the third-quar­ter 2016, about a 62 per­cent in­crease from 904 deaths in 2015. In 2010, this fig­ure was 465. On Wed­nes­day, Ho­gan signed an ex­ec­u­tive or­der call­ing for a state of emer­gency, sim­i­lar to what other ju­ris­dic­tions around the coun­try are do­ing to im­me­di­ately ad­dress the ris­ing heroin and opi­oid use and over­dose is­sues. As we re­ported in Jan­uary, many peo­ple who use opi­oids, mainly Fen­tanyl, are ini­tially pre­scribed due to an ail­ment, and when the pre­scrip­tion runs out, the cheaper al­ter­na­tive to the opi­oid ad­dic­tion is heroin. Fen­tanyl is also mixed with heroin to in­crease its po­tency, also in­creas­ing the risk of over­dose. Ho­gan said Wed­nes­day that he plans to send to the Mary­land Gen­eral As­sem­bly a sup­ple­men­tal bud­get re­quest of $50 mil­lion for a five-year plan to fund pro­grams to sup­port law en­force­ment, drug treat­ment and pre­ven­tion ef­forts.

This an­nounce­ment shows that the gov­er­nor is tak­ing the epi­demic se­ri­ously, as we all should. The num­bers are there to sup­port that this isn’t a knee-jerk re­sponse to a few iso­lated in­ci­dents. It’s hap­pen­ing all over the coun­try. But as some crit­ics have pointed out, the gov­er­nor should do more than throw money at the prob­lem. Of course, this shouldn’t be Ho­gan’s prob­lem to solve alone. As pri­vate cit­i­zens, we should be look­ing to sup­port those with these ad­dic­tions and do our best to steer them to­ward help, be­fore, at the very least, they wind up in a jail cell, or, much worse, dead.

Those who be­come addicted to these sub­stances of­ten rob friends, fam­ily and strangers to sup­port their habit, be it rum­mag­ing through an un­locked car look­ing for loose change, to bur­glar­iz­ing a neigh­bor’s home look­ing for pills or cash or valu­ables to pawn. The ad­dic­tion just doesn’t af­fect that per­son: It has the po­ten­tial to af­fect any of us caught on the pe­riph­ery of the addict.

Ho­gan’s an­nounce­ment Wed­nes­day was a wel­come boost to the on­go­ing up­hill bat­tle. More steps need to be made at all lev­els of gov­ern­ment. This is a very real prob­lem all of us should be find­ing ways to com­bat.

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