Drug over­dose deaths down slightly in re­gion

But statewide, opi­oid fa­tal­ity rate con­tin­ues to soar over last year

Maryland Independent - - Front Page - By DANDAN ZOU dzou@somd­news.com

The num­ber of over­dose deaths in Southern Mary­land de­creased slightly in the first quar­ter of this year, while the fa­tal­ity rate con­tin­ues to rise rapidly statewide, ac­cord­ing to a re­port re­leased Fri­day by the Mary­land De­part­ment of Health.

Data from the re­port showed 16 peo­ple died from January to March in the tri-county area, two fewer than the same pe­riod last year. Nine of them are re­lated to fen­tanyl.

Car­fen­tanil, an opi­oid 100 times more po­tent than fen­tanyl, has also shown up in the re­gion. The state med­i­cal ex­am­iner’s of­fice said a car­fen­tanil-linked death oc­curred on June 5 in St. Mary’s County.

In Charles, there was a car­fen­tanil re­lated case in late May that is still

un­der in­ves­ti­ga­tion, ac­cord­ing to Diane Richardson, pub­lic in­for­ma­tion of­fi­cer at the Charles County Sher­iff’s Of­fice.

Calvert has not seen a case linked to car­fen­tanil as of Mon­day, ac­cord­ing to Joe Wind­sor, drug in­tel­li­gence pro­gram co­or­di­na­tor at the Calvert County Sher­iff’s Of­fice.

“In Southern Mary­land, our num­ber has de­creased slightly,” Calvert Health Of­fi­cer Dr. Lau­rence Pol­sky said. But “our goal is to dra­mat­i­cally de­crease the num­bers. … We re­al­ize we have a lot of work to do.”

In the first quar­ter, Calvert had two drug- and al­co­hol-re­lated fa­tal­i­ties, three fewer than the same pe­riod in 2016.

The Calvert sher­iff’s of­fice re­ported as of Mon­day, the county had 14 fa­tal over­doses, half of 2016’s total num­ber, ac­cord­ing to Wind­sor. The sher­iff’s of­fice and the Mary­land State Po­lice han­dled 81 over­dose cases as of Aug. 7.

Statewide, 550 over­dose deaths oc­curred in the first three month, a 37 per­cent in­crease com­pared to the same pe­riod last year. Of all deaths, 372 of them are fen­tanyl-re­lated.

“This cri­sis con­tin­ues to es­ca­late,” said Dr. Meena Brew­ster, St. Mary’s County’s health of­fi­cer. “Fen­tanyl is be­com­ing more and more of a key player” in the in­crease of fa­tal­ity rate due to its lethal­ity.

In March, Gov. Larry Ho­gan (R) de­clared the heroin, opi­oid and fen­tanyl cri­sis pen­e­trat­ing com­mu­ni­ties across Mary­land a state of emer­gency. Ho­gan also an­nounced that the state would spend $50 mil­lion over five years to fund pre­ven­tion, re­cov­ery and en­force­ment ef­forts.

For fis­cal year 2018 that started July 1, $22 mil­lion in state and fed­eral fund­ing in­cludes the first $10 mil­lion from Ho­gan’s March an­nounce­ment to fight the opi­oid cri­sis.

Ac­cord­ing to Fri­day’s re­port, St. Mary’s had four over­dose deaths in the first three months.

For the first half of the year, 14 peo­ple in St. Mary’s died from heroin, fen­tanyl and opi­oid re­lated deaths, not in­clud­ing cases han­dled by the Mary­land State Po­lice and emer­gency med­i­cal ser­vices, ac­cord­ing to Capt. Eric Sweeney, com­man­der of the vice and nar­cotics divi­sion at the St. Mary’s sher­iff’s of­fice.

Last year, St. Mary’s total num­ber of over­dose fa­tal­i­ties was 15.

Brew­ster said she doesn’t an­tic­i­pate St. Mary’s to get a large amount of the $22 mil­lion con­sid­er­ing the county’s rel­a­tively small size and that the county’s “num­bers do look bet­ter on pa­per” than some other ju­ris­dic­tions.

With the small amount of fund­ing she an­tic­i­pates, Brew­ster said the money will be used to in­crease ac­cess and ad­dress bar­ri­ers to treat­ment.

Pre­ven­tion will also be a big part of the fund­ing fo­cus, which in­cludes pre­vent­ing opi­oid mis­use, pre­vent­ing peo­ple from de­vel­op­ing an ad­dic­tion and pre­vent­ing deaths, she said. The main strat­egy in­volved to pre­vent deaths is to in­crease ac­cess to nalox­one, a life-sav­ing drug that can re­verse an over­dose.

Charles County’s Health Of­fi­cer Dr. Dianna Ab­ney agreed.

“We don’t want to think of nalox­one as a fix,” Ab­ney said. But it is a way to pre­vent death and “give us an op­por­tu­nity to get peo­ple into treat­ment.”

Thanks to a stand­ing or­der is­sued by Dr. Howard Haft, deputy sec­re­tary for pub­lic health ser­vices with the state’s health de­part­ment, any­one can go to a phar­macy and get nalox­one with­out a pre­scrip­tion.

In the first quar­ter, Charles had 10 deaths. If the num­bers con­tinue to stay at the same rate, Ab­ney said four quar­ters would add up to 40 deaths, which would mean an 11 per­cent de­crease in over­all over­dose deaths this year.

In 2016, Charles County saw 45 over­dose deaths. As of Mon­day, out of 172 over­dose cases han­dled by the Charles County Sher­iff’s Of­fice, 22 of them were fa­tal, ac­cord­ing to Richardson.

With all the ef­forts put in the county, Ab­ney said she an­tic­i­pates a greater de­crease.

Charles County is work­ing to in­crease the num­ber of sub­stance use dis­or­der treat­ment providers and pro­vide more re­cov­ery ser­vices that will help peo­ple stay in re­cov­ery, Ab­ney said. The health de­part­ment is also work­ing to pro­vide more ed­u­ca­tion on sub­stance-use dis­or­der and de­crease the stigma associated with it.

“The gover­nor’s of­fice has been do­ing ev­ery­thing they can to help out on the lo­cal level,” Pol­sky said. Calvert ex­pects to get $100,000 for the first al­lo­ca­tion of the grant com­ing in the next month, he said.

The money will be used to in­crease out­reach to pa­tients in the hos­pi­tal and treat­ment fa­cil­i­ties, ex­plore al­ter­na­tive means to treat pain to min­i­mize the use of opi­oids, im­prove ac­cess to treat­ment and co­or­di­nate more me­dia cam­paigns to raise aware­ness, he said.

The Calvert health de­part­ment has hired a nurse prac­ti­tioner who will start in a month, Pol­sky said. The nurse will be based in Lusby, an area that has the high­est num­ber of over­dose cases in the county.

“We con­tinue to push the mes­sage that help is avail­able,” Brew­ster said. “Treat­ment is ef­fec­tive. Peo­ple do re­cover and get their life back. We need peo­ple to take the step to get the help they need.”

Res­i­dents can find treat­ment re­sources at MdDesti­na­tionRe­cov­ery.org, Be­foreIt­sTooLateMD.org, or call the state cri­sis hot­line at 1-800422-0009.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.