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Maryland Declares Opioid “State of Emergency”

Many overdose deaths began with prescription painkiller abuse

Maryland Governor Larry Hogan has declared a state of emergency in response to the state’s opioid-addiction crisis, committing an additional $50 million over the next five years to boost enforcement, prevention, and treatment services, according to an article in the Washington Post. The governor said the declaration underscores what he described as “an all-hands-on-deck approach” to growing rates of heroin, opioid, and fentanyl use.

Hogan did not indicate where the money would come from for his $50 million initiative.

Heroin and fentanyl, a powerful synthetic opioid, killed 1,468 Maryland residents during the first nine months of 2016, up 62% from the same period in 2015, according to state data. Many of those who overdosed had initially abused prescription painkillers and other opioids. The trends are part of a nationwide opioid epidemic, the Post notes.

Clay Stamp, Hogan’s senior emergency management adviser, offered few specifics on the state-wide effort, stating that the details were “squishy” at this point. “Clear, specific goals” would be announced soon, he said.

Opioid abuse has been a signature issue for Hogan. The governor has proposed bills that include measures to limit prescriptions of opioid-based painkillers and to increase prison sentences for drug dealers.

Although some advocacy groups applauded Hogan’s efforts, others said he should do more.

“We don’t need education, and we don’t need more law enforcement,” Mike Gimbel, a former Baltimore County drug czar and a recovering heroin addict, said in a statement. “We need treatment on demand. Ten million new dollars [per year] is a drop in the bucket.”

Source: Washington Post; March 1, 2017.

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