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The Office of Lt. Governor Boyd K. Rutherford

PHOTO RELEASE: Lt. Governor Rutherford Highlights Legislation to Expand Access to Mental and Behavioral Health Resources, New Initiatives to Combat Opioid Epidemic in Maryland

Proposals to Increase Telehealth Services, Naloxone Distribution; $400 Million in Opioid Settlement Funds, Launches Opioid Overdose Notification Pilot Program

ANNAPOLIS, MD—Lt. Governor Boyd K. Rutherford today highlighted new legislation to increase access to mental and behavioral health resources and reduce barriers to receiving care for individuals struggling with substance use disorders. The lieutenant governor also announced additional funding and initiatives to further enhance Maryland’s response to the opioid crisis.

Lt. Governor Rutherford was joined for the announcement at the Sheppard Pratt Baltimore/Washington campus in Elkridge by Deputy Secretary Dr. Jinlene Chan of the Maryland Department of Health, Executive Director Robin Rickard of the Opioid Operational Command Center (OOCC), and Dr. Harsh K. Trivedi, president and CEO of Sheppard Pratt.

“The Hogan-Rutherford administration remains committed to improving health, safety, and quality of life for all Marylanders,” said Lt. Governor Rutherford. “We want to stop this needless loss of life to substance use disorders and fight back against the opioid crisis that has gone on for far too long.”

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Legislation to Expand Access to Mental and Behavioral Health Resources

Lt. Governor Rutherford urged the Maryland General Assembly to pass the following Hogan-Rutherford administration bills:

  • HB 421/SB 398, which would expand access to telehealth services by allowing licensed, out-of-state mental and behavioral health practitioners to provide services to patients virtually in Maryland. The measure would increase the number of mental and behavioral health care practitioners available to deliver mental and behavioral health care via telehealth, and improve access for communities experiencing a shortage of providers.
  • The Statewide Targeted Overdose Prevention (STOP) Act (SB 394/HB 408), which would increase availability of naloxone to individuals at high risk for overdose.

$400 Million in Opioid Settlement Funds

The State of Maryland will receive $400 million from settlements with Johnson & Johnson and three prescription opioid distributors over 18 years. This funding will be placed in the state Opioid Restitution Fund to support initiatives aligned with Maryland’s comprehensive, collaborative response to the opioid crisis.

In January, Governor Hogan unveiled his FY 2023 budget proposal, which featured historic funding for mental health and substance abuse disorder programs, as well as a sixth-year funding commitment for the OOCC.

“We appreciate the support of the State of Maryland and their commitment to behavioral health to help ensure greater access to critical programs and services like our state-of the art Baltimore/Washington hospital campus and statewide pilot for hub and spoke opioid treatment services,” said Dr. Trivedi. “As the mental health crisis is exploding, the need for partnerships, legislation, and funding support is crucial so that we can all best serve the behavioral health needs of our community at a time when there is tremendous need.”

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New Initiatives to Address the Opioid Crisis

Examination and Treatment Act Grant Program. The OOCC announced $8 million for a new grant program supported by the Opioid Restitution Fund to help local jurisdictions expand access to screening, treatment, and other services for individuals involved in the criminal justice system living with opioid use disorder.

“Expanding access to treatment and other critical services in correctional facilities is one of our top priorities because justice-involved individuals with substance use disorder are among the most at-risk for overdose,” said Rickard. “These services can help break the cycle of addiction and incarceration, and they can ultimately save lives.”

Overdose Notification Pilot Project. Additionally, the Maryland Department of Health is launching the Overdose Notification Pilot Project in collaboration with local health departments, OOCC, and Chesapeake Regional Information System for our Patients (CRISP). The pilot program will use emergency medical services and emergency department data to send secure, near real time notifications to participating local health departments when there is an overdose in their jurisdiction. Local health departments will then be able to reach out to overdose survivors and potentially connect them to crisis or treatment services.

“The department remains committed to identifying new approaches to stop overdose deaths,” said Deputy Secretary Chan.“Partnerships are the bedrock of our work and we are grateful for the steadfast commitment of our partners in lifting up programs like the Overdose Notification pilot.”

Healthcare Heroes Appreciation Week

During today’s visit to the Sheppard Pratt Baltimore/Washington campus, Lt. Governor Rutherford met with practitioners and staff in recognition of Healthcare Heroes Appreciation Week. Lt. Governor Rutherford acknowledged the vital role healthcare workers play across Maryland during the COVID-19 pandemic and in the fight against the opioid epidemic.

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“They meet us when we are at our most vulnerable, and do everything they can to take care of us physically, mentally, and emotionally,” said Lt. Governor Rutherford. “We owe them a profound debt of gratitude, and we owe it to them to make maintaining continuity of care easier and to make quality care more accessible to patients.”

Marylanders are encouraged to wear blue on Friday to honor healthcare workers. Government House, M&T Bank Stadium, and Oriole Park at Camden Yards will be lit blue to commemorate Healthcare Heroes Appreciation Week.

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