Governor-elect Larry Hogan has been clear that his incoming administration will take the booming opioid and drug problem very seriously, saying he plans to declare a heroin “emergency” upon taking office. Citing the fact that the issue covers more than one state agency or subject area, he has announced that incoming Lieutnenant Governor Boyd Rutherford will play a leadership role in their efforts to combat these problems.
“Every state on the East Coast has declared a state of emergency except Maryland — and Maryland has the worst problem,” Hogan told reporters Saturday morning at the state Republican Party’s fall convention in Howard County. “We’re going to do it. I think it’s just going to shine more light on the subject. It’s going to make people pay more attention to it.”
Maryland has increased law enforcement efforts, launched a public awareness campaign, trained emergency responders and others to administer naloxone, and made the medication easier to obtain. Teams of experts are combing through autopsy reports to spot trends, and Maryland has compiled a database of information that officials think is one of the most sophisticated in the country.
Last year, more people in Maryland were killed by heroin than were murdered — and the number of deaths continued to climb during the first half of this year, with nearly 300 people killed, a 46 percent jump from the same time period last year.
This multi-pronged strategy meshes with MACo’s own initiative on drug issues, as approved by the 2014 Legislative Committee for the year ahead:
Broad Tools to Tackle the Drug Crisis – Drug-related deaths and crises continue to rise in epidemic proportions. Counties in all regions need support and coordination among state and local agencies, with appropriate local flexibility, to bridge remaining gaps. A customized approach is required as the diverse agents will require different forms of assistance. First responders will benefit from additional training and equipment. Public health providers will benefit from support to retain and expand treatment and preventative services. Citizens will benefit from increased access to life-saving medications and innovative policies to protect their individual and collective well-being. MACo advocates for comprehensive legislation and budget initiatives to address the growing drug problem confronting each county and the unique needs of their communities by providing broader and better tools.