Heroin and Opioid Emergency Task Force Submits Interim Report to Governor Larry Hogan
Includes 10 Recommendations That Can Be Implemented Immediately
ANNAPOLIS, MD – The Heroin and Opioid Emergency Task Force, created by Governor Larry Hogan on Feb. 24, 2015, and chaired by Lt. Governor Boyd Rutherford, today submitted its Interim Report to the governor.
The Task Force—made up of 11 members with expertise in substance abuse, treatment, and law enforcement, including a mother who lost her daughter to a heroin overdose—advises and assists the governor in establishing a statewide effort to improve public awareness, access to treatment, quality of care, alternatives to incarceration for non-violent drug abusers, and law enforcement coordination.
The Task Force’s Interim Report reflects the Task Force’s findings, the ongoing efforts of its workgroups, immediate resource allocations, and preliminary recommendations. Specifically, the report includes 10 recommendations that can be put into place by relevant state agencies at little or nominal cost within just a few weeks. They are as follows:
- Earlier and Broader Incorporation of Heroin and Opioid Prevention into the Health Curriculum
- Infusion of Heroin and Opioid Prevention into Additional Disciplines
- Heroin and Opioid Addiction Integrated into Service Learning Projects
- Student-Based Heroin and Opioid Prevention Campaign
- Video PSA Campaign
- Maryland Emergency Department Opioid Prescribing Guidelines
- Maryland State Police Training on the Good Samaritan Law
- Maryland State Police Help Cards and Health Care Follow-Up Unit
- Faith-Based Addiction Treatment Database
- Overdose Awareness Week
The report also includes 10 funding announcements to improve access to treatment and quality of care, including expanding Kent County’s A.F. Whitsitt Center, a residential treatment facility for adults suffering from chemical dependency, to a 40-bed center; providing community-based naloxone training and distribution; and expanding supportive recovery housing for women with children.
“During the campaign, the Lt. Governor and I visited every corner of the state and everywhere we traveled, we heard the same tragic stories of how the heroin and opioid epidemic was destroying families and communities,” Governor Hogan said. “Over the last six months, the Task Force has held six regional field summits and spoken with hundreds of Marylanders who have lost loved ones to the disease of addiction, as well as treatment providers, educators, public health and law enforcement officials, and other vested stakeholders. With the release of the Interim Report today, we take a step forward in combating our state’s heroin crisis, and I look forward to implementing the 10 recommendations right away.”
“The Interim Report is a good start, and I am pleased to be able to present it to the governor today,” said Lt. Governor Rutherford, chairman of the Task Force. “We’re going to continue to advocate and look for those roadblocks to prevention, treatment, and the correct law enforcement response.”
As announced earlier this year and as part of Governor Hogan’s overall statewide effort to fight heroin and opioid addiction, reduce overdose deaths, and combat drug-related crimes, the Governor’s Office of Crime Control and Prevention awarded $483,777 to nine counties for Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT) reentry programs in local detention centers and jails throughout Maryland. Under some of the programs, selected inmates will receive monthly injections of Vivitrol, a non-narcotic and non-addictive substance that blocks the euphoric effects of heroin and other opiates and alcohol. Additional funding has been set aside to develop and implement a program in Baltimore City. The MAT reentry programs are modeled after a nationally recognized effort at the Washington County Detention Center, which combines drug treatment with extensive behavioral health counseling.
Also, 2,380 of the 5,000 Evzio naloxone kits, donated to the state by Kaléo Pharmaceuticals, have been distributed to individuals most at risk of heroin overdoses. (Each kit contains two doses of naloxone.) Evzio is the only Naloxone auto-injector (similar to an epi-pen) that is FDA-approved for use by laymen to reverse a suspected opioid overdose. Naloxone is widely used by law enforcement, first responders, and emergency rooms to treat opiate overdoses and has been credited with saving numerous lives in just the past year.
“Serving on the Heroin Task Force, and listening to people across Maryland, proved the need for strong action and leadership to confront this public health tragedy,” said Delegate Brett Wilson of Washington County, a member of the Task Force and an assistant state’s attorney. “Those afflicted by this disease are not statistics. They are very real people and, thankfully, the governor has set in motion a mechanism to transform how we treat, talk about, and bring to light this problem. With Lt. Gov. Rutherford’s ability to disseminate the mass of information we gathered, we see in the Interim Report recommendations that can have an immediate positive effect while the Task Force works toward the final product.”
The final product—the Task Force’s Final Report—will include further recommendations, and is due to the governor on December 1, 2015.
To read the Interim Report, click here.