Fentanyl Continues to Kill; Locals Look to Feds for Help

The Maryland Department of Health recently released its annual report on unintentional drug and alcohol related intoxication deaths. The findings were distressing but perhaps unfortunately not surprising to those working on the ground and living in our communities — fentanyl deaths are up.

The Washington Post reports:

Maryland fatalities caused by fentanyl jumped 42 percent from 2016 to 2017 — from 1,119 to 1,594 — even as deaths related to heroin use declined, according to data released by the Maryland Department of Health on Thursday.

Health Secretary Robert R. Neall called the rising numbers “staggering,” noting that in the first three months of 2018 alone there were 500 fentanyl-related deaths in the state.

A breakdown shared by the The Baltimore Business Journal showed some of the geographic and demographic findings:

Garrett County had the fewest fentanyl-related deaths in 2017, with two. Every other county had three or more deaths, and most had more than 20. Baltimore City saw the highest number of fentanyl-related deaths, with 573.

Fentanyl-related deaths grew 27 percent among Marylanders under the age 25, grew 45 percent among 25-34-year-olds, 51 percent among 35-44-year-olds, 30 percent among 45-54-year-olds, and 54 percent among those older than 55. The 25-34 age group saw the highest number of fentanyl-related deaths in 2017, with 454.

According to The Baltimore Sun the Mayor and officials from Baltimore City — a jurisdiction that continues to be hard hit by the crisis — have met with congressional representatives Congressman Elijah E. Cummings of Baltimore and Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts to urge them to continue to try to push for federal legislation they sponsored (the Comprehensive Addiction Resources Emergency Act) that would provide more funding and help to local communities to fight the epidemic.

Cummings and Warren, both Democrats, sought to use the forum — televised nationally by C-SPAN — to promote legislation that would provide $100 billion over 10 years for services to combat substance use disorders. The legislation is modeled after the Ryan White Act of 1990, which provided billions of federal dollars to combat the AIDS crisis.

“This is what we on the front lines have been asking for,” said Baltimore Health Commissioner Dr. Leana Wen, who moderated the panel.

The Sun article notes that the Act is held up in committee due to concerns with the price tag. As previously shared on Conduit Street, the act which was modeled after the 1990’s Ryan White Act, would provide $10 billion in annual federal funding to state and local government to tackle the opioid crisis.

For more information:

Unintentional Drug- and Alcohol- Related Intoxication Deaths in Maryland, Annual Report 2017 (Maryland Department of Health)

Fentanyl-related deaths continue ‘staggering’ rise in Maryland (The Washington Post)

Opioids continue to wreak havoc in Maryland — here’s who is dying and where (The Baltimore Business Journal)

Pugh, other city officials urge comprehensive U.S. help on ‘desperate’ opioid issues (The Baltimore Sun)

Related coverage from Conduit Street:

Maryland Congressman Proposes Comprehensive Federal Opioid Crisis Funding