Governor Announces Overdose Prevention Council

Heroin deaths in Maryland have increased by 88 percent since 2011. This and other troublesome findings were recently reported in the Department of Mental Health and Hygiene‘s (DHMH) annual report on Maryland’s drug use. In response to this alarming upward trend, Governor Martin O’Malley has created a task force to tackle the State’s drug problem. As reported in The Ellicott City Patch:

Now, Gov. Martin O’Malley issued an executive order creating a task force to address Maryland’s drug problem. The Governor’s Overdose Prevention Council is to tackle what he called the “urgent and growing public health threat” that has caused an “opioid overdose epidemic.”

Opioids include heroin, oxycodone, hydrocodone, hydromorphone, methadone, fentanyl, tramadol and codeine, according to the Department of Mental Health and Hygiene.

The department found there was a “shift from prescription opioids to heroin,” leading to a rise in heroin-related deaths from 2012 to 2013, O’Malley said.

The Council is tasked in part with advising the Governor on a statewide plan to reduce fatal and non-fatal overdoses as well as developing recommendations for policies, regulations or legislation to address the opioid overdose epidemic. The article also notes:

The Governor’s Overdose Prevention Council will provide quarterly updates and an annual report on its efforts to reduce overdose deaths by 20 percent by the end of 2015, according to the executive order.

“By working together to lift our fellow Marylanders out of addiction, we will ensure that we continue to keep our neighborhoods safe, and protect the health of our loved ones,” O’Malley said.

Counties have also been working to address the issue on a local level.  As reported in The Carroll County Times:

Here in Carroll County, where heroin-related overdose deaths increased from just two in 2011 to 13 in 2012 and 14 in 2013, the substance abuse prevention staff of the Carroll County Health Department has already been working on the front lines of this issue for more than a year. According to Linda Auerback, substance abuse prevention supervisor at the health department, DHMH required all local health departments to formulate an Overdose Prevention Plan in 2013.

Carroll’s plan led to the expansion of the substance abuse prevention program to include more community outreach, working with the addiction recovery community, increasing the number of prescription drug drop-off locations in the county and other initiatives, according to Auerback.

To learn more about the opioid epidemic and what is being done in Maryland to address the issue attend the MACo Summer Conference sessions “The Opioid Epidemic, Part 1: A Public Health Response to the Opiate Problem” and “The Opioid Epidemic, Part 2: A Public Safety Response.” These sessions will be held in the Ocean City Convention Center on Thursday, August 14 at 2:00 pm and 3:30 pm respectively.

Learn more about MACo’s 2014 Summer Conference:

Contact Meetings & Events Director Virginia White with questions about Summer Conference.