Governor declares state of emergency
Gov. Larry Hogan has declared a state of emergency — not because of a recent natural disaster, but rather due to an epidemic that is taking lives at an increasing rate.
Opioid overdose deaths are on the rise not only in Maryland, but nationally. The Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene reported that from January through September 2016, numbers of overdose fatalities saw a sharp spike compared to the previous period in 2015. Maryland saw 1,468 fatalities through the third quarter of 2016, about a 62 percent increase from 904 deaths in 2015. In 2010, this figure was 465.
“We need to treat this crisis the exact same way we would treat any other state emergency,” Hogan said. “With this continuing threat increasing at such an alarming rate, we must allow for rapid coordination with our state and local emergency teams.”
Hogan signed an executive order March 1 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. Many people who use opioids, mainly Fentanyl, are initially prescribed those medications due to an ailment. 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 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.
Hogan tapped Talbot County Emergency Ser vices Director Clay Stamp to lead the statewide effort.
Stamp served as executive director of the Maryland Emergency Management Agency in 2015 and is Hogan’s senior advisor for emergency management.
People across the state are dying every day from heroin and opioid addiction, Stamp said.
“The other lightbulb moment for me was the other day. I was getting in my county car, the fire radio went off and alerted for a 28-year-old overdose victim, and the person died,” Stamp said. “This started to feel like routine to me, because I was hearing it regularly, and it just struck me that we really have a problem here.”
This announcement shows the governor is taking the epidemic seriously, as we all should. 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 burgling 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 peripher y of the addict.
Hogan’s announcement 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 we all should be finding ways to combat.