Joint Committee on Behavioral Health Briefed on State and Local Programs, Treatment Issues

The Joint Committee on Behavioral Health and Opioid Use Disorders held a meeting in Annapolis earlier this week which included briefings from the Governor’s Office of Crime Control and Prevention (GOCCP), Baltimore City, and the state’s Screening, Brief Intervention, and Referral to Treatment (SBIRT) program.

GOCCP Executive Director Chris Shank and Director of Legislation Donald Hogan discussed the intersection of criminal justice and behavioral health issues, one of the areas the Justice Reinvestment Coordinating Council is exploring as part of their charge to reduce incarceration and reinvest savings into more effective programs. They also discussed the growing issue of spice and other synthetic cannabinoids, and programs to provide inmates with treatment upon release and reentry.

Baltimore City Health Commissioner Leana Wen discussed strategies from the Mayor’s Heroin Treatment and Prevention Task Force Report including expanding the use of naloxone. Wen expressed hope that the state could learn from best practices from the city’s history of dealing with drug addiction and that some practices could be expanded statewide. As reported in The Baltimore Sun:

One of the “best practices” Wen is hoping to expand is making naloxone — and training on how to use it in an emergency — more available. She said Baltimore has already trained about 5,000 people, including police officers and family and friends of addicts, to administer the drug to someone who has overdosed….

Wen told the committee she wants to see increased funding for a city initiative called, a website where people can learn where to get training on how to use and obtain naloxone. But she said naloxone is only one part of her department’s plan for dealing with the heroin epidemic in a city with an estimated 19,000 addicts.

If health officials simply treat a person’s overdose without follow-up care, she said, the city’s approach would just be “treading water.”

The other parts of the city’s strategy are to provide access to high-quality care for those who are addicted and education to prevent drug abuse in the first place.

Bonnie Campbell and representatives from Maryland’s SBIRT program briefed the committee and shared concerns about the lack of treatment beds. As reported in The Washington Post:

Some Maryland health centers are reluctant to screen patients for drug abuse as part of a state intervention program because they’re concerned that there are not enough treatment beds available for addicts, a health official told a joint legislative panel on Tuesday.

“This is a big concern among health centers throughout the state,” said Bonnie Campbell,who heads Maryland’s Screening, Brief Intervention, and Referral to Treatment program. “They’re concerned they’ll identify patients who have substance-use problems and not be able to refer them to treatment.”

For more information read the full articles in The Baltimore Sun and The Washington Post.