Opi­oids con­tinue to haunt

As can­di­date, Ho­gan vowed to take on ‘epi­demic.’ Yet deaths soared

Baltimore Sun Sunday - - FRONT PAGE -

When Larry Ho­gan ran for gov­er­nor four years ago, he vowed to ur­gently ad­dress what he called Mary­land’s “heroin epi­demic.”

“It’s a ma­jor dis­as­ter,” the Repub­li­can said dur­ing an Oc­to­ber 2014 de­bate. “In Jan­uary, I will im­me­di­ately de­clare a state of emer­gency.”

At the time, Mary­land was ap­proach­ing 888 opi­oid over­dose deaths for the year, a then-record pace that Ho­gan was blam­ing on in­ef­fec­tive ef­forts by his Demo­cratic pre­de­ces­sor, Gov. Martin O’Mal­ley.

But upon tak­ing of­fice in Jan­uary 2015, Ho­gan did not im­me­di­ately de­clare a for­mal emer­gency. In­stead, he set up a statewide task force that worked for a year to de­liver 33 rec­om­men­da­tions. As ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cials rolled out the strate­gies dur­ing 2016, opi­oid fa­tal­i­ties mounted to 1,856 peo­ple that year — a death count that ranked Mary­land fourth among the 50 states for such per-capita drug fa­tal­i­ties.

In all, 6,139 Mary­lan­ders died of opi­oidrelated over­doses from the start of Ho­gan’s term through June 2018, a pe­riod of three years and six months. That’s more than the 5,019 who died dur­ing O’Mal­ley’s eight years in of­fice.

“It’s been very frus­trat­ing,” Ho­gan said this month. “I don’t have a magic so­lu­tion. We’ve tried ev­ery­thing.”

The task force rec­om­men­da­tions called for such things as ex­pand­ing treat­ment and curb­ing pre­scrip­tion abuse, but was crit­i­cized for lack­ing specifics on costs.

The gov­er­nor’s cur­rent point man on the opi­oid cri­sis, Clay Stamp, ac­knowl­edges that the state’s ini­tial strat­egy fal­tered as a surge in the use of deadly fen­tanyl — which was not a ma­jor con­cern four years ago — more than stripped away some progress achieved in re­duc­ing fa­tal­iSee OPI­OIDS, page 20 6,139 peo­ple in Mary­land have died of opi­oid-re­lated over­doses from the start of Gov. Larry Ho­gan’s term in Jan­uary 2015 through June of this year.

SUN IN­VES­TI­GATES

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