Opi­oid bat­tle long de­spite emer­gency dec­la­ra­tion

Over­doses rank among top causes of death

The Washington Times Daily - - METRO - BY JESS NOCERA

When Carin Miller’s son was about 19, he be­gan to abuse heroin by snort­ing pills and even­tu­ally moved on to shoot­ing up. This went on for six years be­fore he got help.

Lu­cas Miller’s his­tory of drug use started in high school with mar­i­juana. When he moved out of his par­ents’ home, one of his house­mates had ac­cess to 750 to 1,500 pills at any given time among five res­i­dences in Fred­er­ick, Mary­land.

“My son was ad­dicted to heroin. He’s in re­cov­ery by the grace of God since Thanks­giv­ing 2014. I think that’s where we are at,” Ms. Miller said.

Opi­oid over­doses now rank with cancer, strokes and heart at­tacks among the top killers in Mary­land.

State and fed­eral law­mak­ers have passed leg­is­la­tion aimed at ad­dress­ing the cri­sis, although they and pub­lic health pro­fes­sion­als agree that the bat­tle will be long.

On April 10, the Mary­land Gen­eral As­sem­bly passed sev­eral bills to ad­dress this statewide cri­sis. The Start Talking Mary­land Act, HB 1082, and the HOPE Act, HB 1329, were both passed.

The HOPE Act would in­crease ac­cess to nalox­one, an over­dose-re­ver­sal drug and would re­quire hos­pi­tals to es­tab­lish a new pro­to­col when dis­charg­ing pa­tients treated for sub­stance abuse dis­or­ders.

It also in­tro­duced Keep the Door Open, a pro­vi­sion that pro­vides three years of fund­ing to re­im­burse com­mu­nity health care providers. The act also re­quires the Be­hav­ioral Health Ad­min­is­tra­tion to es­tab­lish a cri­sis treat­ment cen­ter be­fore June 2018.

The Start Talking Mary­land Act would re­quire schools to have de­fined ed­u­ca­tion pro­grams on opi­oid ad­dic­tion.

Other opi­oid-re­lated bills passed by the Gen­eral As­sem­bly were HB 1432, which places a re­stric­tion on the num­ber of opi­oid painkillers a doc­tor can pre­scribe to a pa­tient per visit, and SB 539, a bill that sets new penal­ties for dis­tribut­ing fen­tanyl.

The opi­oid-re­lated bills have been sent to Mary­land Gov. Larry Ho­gan’s desk for his sig­na­ture. The Repub­li­can gov­er­nor has un­til May 30 to sign or veto the 900 bills passed by the Gen­eral As­sem­bly; other­wise, they au­to­mat­i­cally be­come law.

On March 1, Mr. Ho­gan signed an ex­ec­u­tive or­der declar­ing a state of emer­gency in re­sponse to the heroin, opi­oid and fen­tanyl cri­sis “rav­aging com­mu­ni­ties in Mary­land and across the coun­try.”

“We need to treat this cri­sis the ex­act same way we would treat any other state emer­gency,” Mr. Ho­gan said in a state­ment. “This is about tak­ing an all-hands-on-deck ap­proach so that to­gether we can save the lives of thou­sands of Mary­lan­ders.”

The fi­nal numbers for last year are ex­pected to show that nearly 2,000 people died from heroin and other opi­oid over­doses in the state over the past year, about dou­ble the num­ber of deaths in 2015.

Ad­di­tion­ally, drug over­dose deaths rose by 19.2 per­cent from 2013 to 2014 in Mary­land, ac­cord­ing to a press re­lease from U.S. Sen. Ben­jamin L. Cardin.

“There’s no ques­tion, no ques­tion there has been a spike in opi­oid over­doses,” Mr. Cardin said in an in­ter­view with Cap­i­tal News Ser­vice. “Let me in­di­cate the numbers in Mary­land are shock­ing as we are see­ing the dou­bling and tripling over the last cou­ple of years, but the Mary­land numbers are typ­i­cal to what we see all over the coun­try.”

Mr. Cardin and fel­low Mary­land Demo­crat Sen. Chris Van Hollen backed the 21st Cen­tury Cures Act and the Com­pre­hen­sive Ad­dic­tion and Re­cov­ery Act of 2015. Mr. Van Hollen was a co-spon­sor for the 21st Cen­tury Cures Act.

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