The Dundalk Eagle

2020 sec­ond quar­ter re­port shows rise in sub­stance abuse fa­tal­i­ties

Rise in fa­tal­i­ties linked to pan­demic

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The Opi­oid Op­er­a­tional Com­mand Cen­ter and the Mar yland Depar tment of Health have re­leased their re­por t on the opi­oid cri­sis in Mar yland for the sec­ond quar ter of 2020. The re­por t in­cludes pre­lim­i­nar y data for un­in­ten­tional dru­gand al­co­hol- re­lated in­tox­i­ca­tion deaths dur­ing the pe­riod be­tween Jan­uar y and June 2020.

The sec­ond- quar ter re­por t out­lines con­tin­ued in­creases in opi­oid- and other sub­stance use- re­lated fa­tal­i­ties in Mar yland. It is now clear that the coro­n­avirus pan­demic has cre­ated con­di­tions that are driv­ing in­creased sub­stance mis­use across the state and else­where.

There were 1,326 un­in­ten­tional in­tox­i­ca­tion deaths from all types of drugs and al­co­hol re­por ted in Mar yland dur­ing the first two quar ters of 2020. This fig­ure is a 9.1 per­cent in­crease from the 1,215 in­tox­i­ca­tion deaths re­por ted in the first half of 2019. Opi­oids were in­volved in 1,187 in­tox­i­ca­tion deaths dur­ing this time­frame, rep­re­sent­ing al­most 90 per­cent of all such fa­tal­i­ties and an in­crease of 9.4 per­cent when com­pared to the same pe­riod last year.

“Our state, like the rest of the countr y, has been pre­sented with daunt­ing chal­lenges in the past six months,” said Gov­er­nor Larr y Ho­gan. “We have seen the opi­oid cri­sis com­pli­cated by the coro­n­avirus pan­demic, and we have re­sponded quickly and proac­tively. In June of this year, the state de­vel­oped the COVID- 19 In­ter- Agency Over­dose Ac­tion Plan, which has proved to be an in­valu­able re­source. From the be­gin­ning of my ad­min­is­tra­tion, I have of­fered the full sup­port of my of­fice and the re­sources of ever y agency in the state to solve this prob­lem, and this plan pro­vides the frame­work for us to do that right now. In spite of the other chal­lenges that we face, our ded­i­ca­tion to re­vers­ing the dev­as­ta­tion of the opi­oid cri­sis has not waivered.”

“The progress that we made against the scourge of opi­oids and other sub­stances in re­cent years has been erased by the coro­n­avirus pan­demic in a few shor t months,” said Lieu­tenant Gov­er­nor Boyd K. Ruther ford. “It is up to us to fight back, and Mar ylan­ders need to know that we are mus­ter­ing ever y re­source at our dis­posal to do so. We took ac­tion as soon as we re­al­ized that our progress was in jeop­ardy, and the gov­er­nor and I re­main re­lent­lessly com­mit­ted to this work.”

“We have reached an in­flec­tion point in the opi­oid cri­sis,” added OOCC Ex­ec­u­tive Di­rec­tor Steve Schuh. “It is now clear that the coro­n­avirus pan­demic has had sig­nif­i­cant and detri­men­tal ef fects on sub­stance use trends in our state. Ac­cess to life- sav­ing emer­gency ser vices, sub­stance use treat­ment, and re­cover y sup­por t have been dis­rupted by the coro­n­avirus pan­demic. When you add the de­spair caused by eco­nomic un­cer­tainty, you have a ver y dif fi­cult set of cir­cum­stances for Mar ylan­ders suf fer­ing from sub­stance use dis­or­ders. Us­ing tools like our Ac­tion Plan, and with the col­lec­tive sup­por t of all Mar ylan­ders, we can beat what is not just ‘ the other public health cri­sis’ but what is a threat to the well- be­ing of all.”

The syn­thetic opi­oid fen­tanyl con­tin­ues to present se­ri­ous chal­lenges as it plays an in­creas­ing role in the ma­jor­ity of not only opi­oid- re­lated deaths but also all in­tox­i­ca­tion- re­lated deaths in the state. There were 1,100 deaths in­volv­ing fen­tanyl through the sec­ond quar ter of 2020, ac­count­ing for 92.7 per­cent of all opi­oid- re­lated deaths and 83.0 per­cent of all in­tox­i­ca­tion- re­lated deaths. Fen­tanyl­re­lated deaths in­creased by 11.9 per­cent com­pared to the same pe­riod last year.

Ad­di­tion­ally, there was an 8.1 per­cent in­crease in deaths in­volv­ing pre­scrip­tion opi­oids in the first two quar ters of 2020 when com­pared to the same pe­riod in 2019.

The state is also track­ing re­cent spikes in deaths in­volv­ing non- opi­oid sub­stances, in­clud­ing al­co­hol- and co­caine- re­lated fa­tal­i­ties. Al­co­hol, in com­bi­na­tion with other sub­stances, was re­spon­si­ble for 287 deaths in the first half of 2020 – al­most 35 per­cent more deaths than it was in the first half of 2019. Fur ther­more, there were 486 co­caine- re­lated in­tox­i­ca­tion deaths in the first half of 2020, a 13.3 per­cent in­crease from the same pe­riod last year. The vast ma­jor­ity of fa­tal­i­ties in­volv­ing non- opi­oid sub­stances also in­volved opi­oids. In­creases in deaths re­lated to non- opi­oid sub­stances are in­dica­tive of in­creases in sub­stance mis­use more gen­er­ally and its ex­ac­er­ba­tion by the de­spair caused by the coro­n­avirus pan­demic.

Mar yland’s proac­tive and rapid re­sponse to the pan­demic’s ef fects on sub­stance use fo­cuses on co­or­di­nated plan­ning and re­source dis­tri­bu­tion. In June 2020, the OOCC re­leased Mar yland’s COVID- 19 In­ter- Agency Over­dose Ac­tion Plan, a re­sponse strat­egy in­volv­ing or­ga­ni­za­tions through­out state gov­ern­ment. The OOCC is work­ing with over a dozen par tners, such as MDH’s Be­hav­ioral Health Ad­min­is­tra­tion, to en­sure that mor tal­ity- re­duc­tion, treat­ment, and re­cover y- sup­por t sys­tems are in place for in­di­vid­u­als in need. Through an ar­range­ment es­tab­lished by the Ac­tion Plan, MDH and the OOCC have be­gun us­ing new data sources to in­crease mon­i­tor­ing of over­dose- re­lated events so that re­sources can be di­rected to those ar­eas of the state with the most need.

The state also has been in­volved ac­tively in dis­tribut­ing grant awards tar­geted at opi­oid and sub­stance use. At the end of Au­gust, the OOCC awarded nearly $ 10 mil­lion in state grant fund­ing to sup­por t com­mu­nity- spe­cific pro­grams aimed at stop­ping sub­stance use where it be­gins. The awards included $ 5.6 mil­lion in com­pet­i­tive grants and $ 4.0 mil­lion in block grants. The com­pet­i­tive grants will be used to ad­dress the needs of in­di­vid­ual or­ga­ni­za­tions around the state, while the block grants will be dis­trib­uted among the Opi­oid In­ter ven­tion Teams in each of the state’s 24 ju­ris­dic­tions to fight the cri­sis in ways that best meet their lo­cal needs.

State agen­cies in­volved in the cri­sis re­sponse are also man­ag­ing sev­eral large fed­eral grants. BHA will be­gin dis­tribut­ing $ 50 mil­lion in State Opi­oid Re­sponse II fund­ing in Oc­to­ber. The SOR II grant will not only ad­dress opi­oid use dis­or­der, but it will also ad­dress stim­u­lant use dis­or­ders, co­caine, and metham­phetamines. Ad­di­tion­ally, the Mar yland Depar tment of La­bor is di­rect­ing $ 4.6 mil­lion in fed­eral fund­ing to seven di­verse, lo­cal work­force ar­eas rep­re­sent­ing 14 ju­ris­dic­tions across the state that have ex­pe­ri­enced neg­a­tive so­cial and eco­nomic im­pacts as a re­sult of the cri­sis.

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