Maryland Will Pivot Opioid Strategy as Deaths Continue to Climb

Lt. Governor Boyd K. Rutherford announced the launch of the Maryland Stop Overdose Strategy (Maryland SOS), a multifaceted, interdisciplinary campaign to reduce overdose deaths of individuals experiencing substance use disorders.

The announcement comes as the Opioid Operational Command Center (OOCC) and Maryland Department of Health (MDH) release a report showing a 5.7% increase in overdose deaths involving drugs and alcohol between January and March 2021 compared with the same period in 2020.

“Seeing an increase in overdoses and deaths in our state is alarming, but we are determined to recover from this, as well as other impacts of the pandemic,” said Lt. Governor Rutherford. “As the opioid crisis evolves, so must our response. Our administration remains committed to putting the resources and support systems in place at every level to help those struggling with substance use disorders. The Maryland Stop Overdose Strategy is a new layer to our comprehensive statewide response, and we intend to do all we can to reduce opioid overdoses and deaths in our state.”

According to a Lt. Governor press release:

The Maryland SOS campaign includes $4 million in block grants awarded to the 24 jurisdictions in Maryland during Fiscal Year 2022, to support local prevention, enforcement, and treatment initiatives, as directed by local Opioid Intervention Teams (OIT) in each of Maryland’s 24 local jurisdictions across the state. Each OIT determines how to allocate funding based on local needs in combating opioid and substance misuse, as well as goals outlined in Maryland’s Inter-Agency Heroin and Opioid Coordination Plan.

Beginning in August, state and local leaders will host a series of town halls for Marylanders to speak about how they are affected by the opioid crisis. These regional events will be held in jurisdictions experiencing the greatest increase in opioid-related overdoses and deaths. The information gathered during those town halls will help identify gaps in resources and guide funding decisions for expanding services. Funding for new initiatives will come from the Opioid Restitution Fund, which is supported by settlement or other revenue from opioid litigation.

Madeleine O’Neill, of Delmarva Now, writes, “The COVID-19 pandemic brought a mix of social isolation and economic instability that, combined with the loss of in-person drug treatment options, proved especially dangerous for people dealing with substance use disorder. Drug-related deaths fell in 2019 for the first time during the opioid crisis. Though the reduction was small — just 1.1% — it offered a sign of hope after a decade of ever-increasing death totals. But 2020 more than reversed that small victory. Deaths involving all types of drugs and alcohol rose more than 17% last year, while deaths related to opioids specifically rose by 18.7%.”

“Maryland Stop Overdose Strategy demonstrates for Marylanders that combating the opioid crisis is still a priority as we recover from the COVID-19 pandemic,” said OOCC Executive Director Rickard. “We are excited about this initiative because it will allow us to hear directly from people on the front lines, and for us to support critical needs facing Marylanders right now.”

Read the full press release.

Read the full Delmarva Now article.

MACo’s Summer Conference will feature a forum entitled “America’s Opioid Crisis: A Dialog on Maryland’s Efforts and Your County’s Role” on Wednesday, August 18, from 3:45 pm – 4:45 pm. Join us for this important and timely discussion.

Read about this and many other sessions being offered at MACo’s Summer Conference


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