Beds, Bupe, and More: ‘Sun’ Looks at Overdoses and Treatment in MD

Over 62,000 Marylanders are in need of treatment for opioid use — a complex crisis where solutions remain far from simple. 

The Baltimore Sun reported in-depth on the state’s efforts in recent years to stem the opioid crisis by noting success stories as well as where initiatives have stalled or fallen short.

Successes include:

  • Equipping first responders with Naloxone. This initiative went from a $856,000 budget and 29,000 doses dispensed in FY 2016 to a $3.6 million budget and 43,000 doses dispensed in FY 2018.
  • Medicaid expansion. Partnerships with the federal government for new funding to cover residential treatment services through Medicaid.
  • Prescription Drug Monitoring Program (PDMP).  Maryland’s program requires pharmacies and medical practitioners to use the PDMP to help prevent prescription drug abuse and diversion.

The Sun article highlights progress made within county jails to provide medication assisted treatment, including buprenorphine, behind bars. Exceeding progress made within state prisons:

County jails are doing more in this regard, using state aid. Supplemental funding approved by the governor and the General Assembly last year provided $985,000 to increase access to medications at six correctional facilities in Anne Arundel, Calvert, Cecil, Dorchester, Howard and Washington counties.

However, gaps still remain. Despite the increase in services and resources the article points to the fact that more is needed. Officials on the ground continue to find there are still not enough treatment beds, not enough medication assisted treatment programs, and not enough data to help target resources and action.

For instance, steps could be taken to strengthen the PDMP program, but opposition from stakeholders has stymied the passage of stronger bills:

But critics say the system should alert licensing boards and law enforcement when prescribing practices appear to be inappropriate or illegal — as when a so-called “pill mill” is dispensing large quantities to a single address.

It was defeated amid strong opposition by the Maryland State Medical Society, which argued health officials lacked the experience to make such reports.

Additionally, real-time data on non-fatal overdoses is severely lacking. This data would be helpful for determining patterns and locations of deadly batches of opioids.

For more information read the full article:

After Larry Hogan vowed to take on Maryland’s opioid epidemic, deaths soared. What happened? (The Baltimore Sun)

Learn more about the challenges local governments face in ensuring their residents have access to behavioral health services at the MACo Winter Conference session, “Who’s Falling Through the Cracks? Gaps in Behavioral Health Services.”