Committee Briefed on Opioid Data, Innovative Initiatives, and Ongoing Progress

The Joint Committee on Behavioral Health and Opioid Use Disorders held a meeting in front of a standing room audience in Annapolis Tuesday.

The robust agenda included briefings by state representatives from the Department of Health, the Governor’s Office of Crime Control and Prevention (GOCCP), the Opioid Operational Command Center (OOCC), as well as presentations regarding safe consumption spaces; Screening, Brief Intervention, and Referral to Treatment (SBIRT); and hospital discharge policies.

Secretary Schrader provided updates from the Department of Health including the progress made on the behavioral health hotline. He discussed plans to work more closely and coordinate with local jurisdictions that operate their own hotlines and for improving connections with providers on the back end. Committee members suggested more work on spreading awareness of the hotlines existence, making the number catchier or easier to remember, and getting feedback from families and other users of the hotline.

Deputy Director of the OOCC, Birch Barron, briefed the committee on establishment of local Opioid Intervention Teams (OIT) in all counties in the state. Collectively they have held 145 coordinating meetings since March 1. He also discussed the community centered approach they are taking with managing the grants that have been provided to these local teams to ensure flexibility that the specific local needs are being met.

Glenn Fueston, Executive Director of GOCCP focused his presentation on his offices collection and use of data. In particular he noted how the office has been reorganized to focus on outcome based performance measures to ensure their actions are having a positive impact. Fueston also reported  a 700% increase in substance use grant funding from his office; increased grant support for programs consistent with the Justice Reinvestment Act; and the success of their heroin coordinator program which is helping to strengthen connections between law enforcement and public health providers.

Following the briefings from the administration representatives, a panel of stakeholders presented on safe consumption spaces. These are places in which individuals can use previously purchased drugs in a clinically monitored environment. While none of these spaces currently exist in Maryland (or in the nation) the panel noted that over 100 such spaces exist worldwide. They discussed the models of safe consumption spaces and data related to their harm reduction aspects — reducing new cases of addiction, removing stigma, enhanced data collection, and expanded access to treatment.

The next presentation, by a representative from the Mosiac Group, focused on the implementation of SBIRT in Maryland. So far the initiative has been implemented in 12 counties and at 96 sites across the state. While great progress has been made they are working on expanding the initiative in Western Maryland and on the Eastern Shore. The meeting concluded with the presentation from the Maryland Hospital Association on the development of a discharge policy as required under the HOPE Act that passed in the 2017 session. The Association has been partnering with the Department of Health on a webinar series to educate hospital staff on new protocols for discharging individuals who have been treated for an overdose or identified as having a substance use disorder.

The 10 member Joint Committee on Behavioral Health and Opioid Use Disorders is charged with overseeing State and local programs to treat and reduce behavioral health and opioid use disorders, as well as the prescription drug monitoring program, and monitoring the work of the Governor’s Inter-Agency Heroin and Opioid Coordinating Council.