Notes of Hope In the Fight Against Opioids

The opioid epidemic continues to grow and county governments across the country grapple with what is now the number-one cause of accidental death in the United States, surpassing traffic fatalities, as described by the National Association of Counties Executive Director, Matt Chase. [Comcast Newsmakers]

The total number of drug and alcohol-related intoxication deaths in Maryland increased by more than 62% for the first three-quarters of 2016 as compared to all of 2015. [Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene]

It’s a situation that is being taken seriously at the State level, where in Maryland, the Governor has declared a state of emergency and announced special funding to fight the opioid epidemic [Conduit Street/Washington Post]

During the legislative session, the General Assembly passed a law requiring local boards of education, in collaboration with the local health departments, to hire a community action official to coordinate school-based community forums on opioid addiction. [MACo Testimony on the “Start Talking Maryland Act”]

And, just last month, the Hogan Administration launched “Before It’s Too Late,” a new web portal designed to provide resources and raise public awareness of the rapid escalation of the heroin, opioid, and fentanyl crisis in Maryland. [Conduit Street/Governor’s Office]

But it is at the local level that the opioid epidemic must be fought. For starters, of the approximate 8.5 million individuals in county jails nationwide, about 60% of them have substance abuse problems, describes Matt Chase of the National Association of Counties. [Comcast Newsmakers]

The good news is that in Maryland’s counties and Baltimore City, programs battling the front lines of the crisis are making a difference.

In Anne Arundel County’s Safe Station’s program, every county police and fire station has opened its doors 24-7 to walk-ins seeking help for drug addiction. The program reached its capacity within two weeks of its start and is connecting entrants the county’s detoxification services and putting them in touch with the Crisis Response Team. [Capital Gazette]

The Baltimore City Health Department Staying Alive Program has taught more than 17,500 drug users, drug treatment clients and providers, inmates, and corrections officers about how to prevent drug overdoses. More than 230 reversals (lives saved) have been documented. [Baltimore City Health Department]. Just this week, Baltimore officials made it easier to acquire  the overdose-reversing drug Nalaxone over the counter, saying the antidote should be as prevalent as possible to prevent more deaths. [The Washington Times]

In  Carroll, Calvert, Cecil, Frederick, Howard, Anne Arundel, Washington, and Montgomery counties, those held in detention centers may be offered Vivitrol, a drug to block addiction, prior to being released. The programs seeks to reduce recidivism. [Carroll County Times] Cecil County’s Detention Center’s program has served several dozen inmates who are looking to continue in sobriety after release. [Cecil Daily]

In Washington County, a day-reporting center provides an alternative to incarceration for non-violent offenders who have substance abuse disorders. The program blends a high level of community supervision with intensive case management and addiction treatment. Participants undergo random alcohol and drug testing, and are provided with job training, financial education, and social supports. The center has showed early success, even finding one participant a job within 29 days of starting the program.  [ County Sheriff’s Office]

But despite the good news, the fight is (very, very) far from over. Stay tuned for Conduit Street for updates and be in touch with your county stories.