Carroll Launches Innovative Visitation Program for Jailed Parents

The Carroll County Detention Center in collaboration with the the Family Law Administration, the Carroll County Local Management Board have started a program to reduce generational incarceration.

The Family Ties program is the first in the state to allow incarcerated parents and children to meet weekly and have contact visitation — outside of the detention center. The visits occur at the county Visitation Center which is operated by the Family Law Administration.

The Carroll County Times reports:

For an hour at a time, incarcerated individuals in the program can meet with their minor children in person. They are able to hold them and interact with them — no glass, no phones.

Along with the visitation comes mandatory participation in the 14-session Strengthening Families program, which has been around since the 1990s and is tailored to improving parenting skills and family relationships. The curriculum used by Family Ties is adapted to be more useful for incarcerated individuals.

For more information read The Carroll County Times.

Costs of Opioid Epidemic High but Hard to Quantify

Maryland residents among those most impacted by the costs of the crisis.

When it comes to the opioid epidemic, some costs are easier to quantify than others leaving the full scope of impact open to estimation.

Governing reports on the national and local efforts to tie a full dollar figure to the impacts of the epidemic:

In November, S&P Global Ratings looked at Medicaid spending, which the authors reasoned was one of the few available state-by-state comparison measurements on the opioid crisis. The report noted that 3 in 10 non-elderly adults on Medicaid struggled with opioid addiction in 2015 — double the rate of 2010.

The S&P report found that the states with the biggest impact on their finances included Kentucky, New Hampshire, Ohio, Rhode Island and West Virginia.

Data that has been collected by AEI shows that Maryland is among the states where residents are carrying a large burden of the costs.

Meanwhile, the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) estimates that the top five places residents shouldering the biggest burden are, in order, West Virginia, the District of Columbia, Maryland, Ohio and Connecticut.

The institute, which will release the full results of its study later this month, incorporated data on the societal cost of opioids from a 2016 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report and a more recent report from the White House Council of Economic Advisers. Together, those reports concluded the epidemic cost the country a half-trillion dollars in 2015 alone.

The AEI report found that the per resident cost ranged from $465 in Nebraska to $4,793 in West Virginia. Their report took into consideration overdose deaths, abuse disorders, health-care and criminal justice costs, and worker productivity.

The article notes that full picture of financial impacts on the local level have been hard to gather as local governments tend to not calculate opioid-related costs until they become a significant part of their budget. Additionally indirect costs, such as loss of economic productivity and children entering state care due to loss of their parents, remain most difficult quantify.

For more information:

How Much Is the Opioid Crisis Costing Governments? (Governing)

New state-level estimates of the economic burden of the opioid epidemic (AEI)

Forum Explores Economic Benefits of Industrial Hemp in Maryland

A forum held in Annapolis explored legalizing industrial hemp in Maryland to reap the benefits of the plant as an agriculture commodity.

Panelists discussed findings from a report, “The Case for Hemp in Maryland: A Misunderstood Plant Takes Root Again,” and the status of hemp at the federal level and in neighboring states — Virginia and Pennsylvania — that have active industrial hemp programs.

The overarching concern was that Maryland was being economically left behind as more states pursue commercial industrial hemp programs. Among other things the plant can be used as fiber, insulation, clothing, food, fuel, and medicine. As of 2017, at least 34 stated have enacted some sort of hemp legislation and 19 are growing hemp for a growing total of 25,541 acres nationwide.

Hemp remains illegal to grow in Maryland although a bill passed in 2016 authorizes farmers to grow hemp only if and when the federal status of hemp changes.

HB 698 introduced by Delegate Fraser-Hidalgo this session, would create a pilot program authorizing the Department of Agriculture or certain higher education institutions to grow, cultivate, harvest, process, manufacture, transport, market, or sell industrial hemp in Maryland. The forum was sponsored by the Abell Foundation.

City Files Suit Against Opioid Manufacturers, Distributors and Local Doctors

Baltimore City has become the latest Maryland jurisdiction to sue opioid manufacturers and distributors for their role in creating the opioid crisis.

The Baltimore Sun reports:

In announcing the lawsuit, filed in Baltimore Circuit Court, City Solicitor Andre Davis said he would personally be part of the team handling the case. Davis, a former federal judge, said the companies marketed the pills knowing they would be “destructive of lives.”

“They were reckless, they were intentional, it was marketing, it was greed,” Davis said.

The City’s lawsuit alleges the defendants funded unethical research, the spread biased and false information, and the failed to report suspicious pill orders. It names Purdue, Cephalon, Janssen, Actavis,  Endo Health Solutions, McKesson, Cardinal Health and AmerisourceBergen, as well as two local doctors that operate pain clinics as defendants.

For more information read The Baltimore Sun

Calvert to Hire Paid EMS — A First for the County

Calvert County will go from a 100% volunteer EMS and first responder corp to phasing in some paid personnel. 

The Calvert County Board of Commissioners has unanimously voted to phase in paid EMS personnel.

The decision was made in order to help address the challenges of a growing number of emergency calls, timely response to all parts of the county, and difficulties recruiting and retaining volunteer fire, rescue and emergency medical services teams. The county has historically relied on a 100% volunteer corp.

The Calvert Recorder reports:

To supplement existing volunteer ALS staff, the committee recommended the future placement of a paramedic ambulance staffed with a paramedic and emergency medical technician at fire departments in Solomons, Prince Frederick and North Beach, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

In addition, the committee recommended the placement of one ALS chase car, staffed with an EMS supervisor lieutenant and EMT, running at large around the clock daily.

The future supplemental staffing is estimated at $3.3 million annually. The cost for the fiscal 2019 hiring of a career EMS supervisor is anticipated somewhere between $100,000 and $150,000.

The move to phase in paid personnel does not come at the expense of the long-standing volunteer corp that county has historically relied on. To help recruit and retain volunteers the committee recommended offering targeted property tax, homebuying assistance, and day care incentives, changing eligibility requirements for tuition assistance programs, and implementing a billing program that would help capture insurance revenue.

For more information read the full article in The Calvert Recorder


Could the Feds “Nationalize” 5G Networks?

Information obtained by Axios details an “unprecedented” proposal apparently being considered by the Trump Administration to protect the country’s 5G network from outside security and economic threats — “nationalization.”

Two options laid out by the documents:

  1. The U.S. government pays for and builds the single network — which would be an unprecedented nationalization of a historically private infrastructure.
  2. An alternative plan where wireless providers build their own 5G networks that compete with one another — though the document says the downside is it could take longer and cost more. It argues that one of the “pros” of that plan is that it would cause “less commercial disruption” to the wireless industry than the government building a network.

The justification for nationalization would be to quickly prepare for emerging technologies and to protect against the threats that China’s growing dominance in manufacturing and operating network infrastructure poses to American economic and security interests. The goal would be to have a centralized 5G network within three years. The option was likened to the Eisenhower Administration’s creation of the national highway system.

As the article explains this would be a significant change from an industry that is largely controlled by private interest who have already invested heavily in the deployment of the 5G networks.

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai (an appointment from the current Administration) has voiced opposition to the proposal, and favors a market-based approach.

Many state legislatures have seen legislation regarding “small cell” wireless deployment — in most cases, seeking to streamline local permitting processes to speed installation of new facilities with an eye toward 5G implementation.


For more information:

Scoop: Trump team considers nationalizing 5G network (Axios)

Hogan Proposes Suit Against Drug Manufacturers, Jail into Treatment Center

As part of the continued effort to tackle the opioid crisis the Hogan Administration has announced a new package of initiatives.

As reported by The Baltimore Sun the package included possibly turning the former Baltimore City jail into a treatment center:

The administration said it would order a feasibility study on repurposing the Civil War-era jail, which Hogan closed in 2015 because of its decrepit condition. The study would be conducted by a consultant chosen by three state agencies.

The feasibility study will help determine, among other things, the level of security needed for this type of therapeutic facility and recommended programming for mental health, substance abuse and medical treatment, Chasse said.

Additionally, The Washington Post reports the governor would also like for the Attorney General to pursue litigation against drug manufacturers. However the characterization and funding for that directive was challenged by the AG:

The governor’s announcement directed Attorney General Brian E. Frosh (D) to consider lawsuits against opioid companies, without naming any, and to direct any settlement proceeds generated by those suits to addiction prevention and treatment programs.

But Frosh said his office is already involved in a 41-state investigation into opioid companies and doesn’t need the governor’s permission to sue them.

To learn more:

Hogan opioid plan would possibly turn closed Baltimore jail into a treatment center (The Baltimore Sun)

Hogan wants Md. to sue opioid manufacturers, turn jail into treatment center (The Washington Post)

Commissioner Pens Op-Ed, Pledges to Hold Drug Companies Accountable

Queens Anne’s County Commissioner James Moran penned an op-ed on the impacts the opioid crisis has inflicted on the county, the role drug companies played contributing to the crisis, and the steps he will take along with his fellow commissioners to ensure the drug companies are held accountable in court.

I doubt that there are many of us that have not been affected by this epidemic or know someone close to us that has. As you will see from the signs that I have helped the Drug Free Coalition and the Queen Anne’s County Sheriff Department erect, we had over 50 overdoses resulting in five (5) fatalities from opioids in Queen Anne’s County in 2017 alone. And this doesn’t include our residents that have OD’d in other counties so our numbers could be much higher.

The drug companies and the drug distributors recognized this potential and flooded physicians with opioid marketing ploys that falsely promised the following:

  1. Millions suffer from chronic pain, and it’s undertreated;
  2. Opioids are convenient and effective;
  3. Addiction to opioids is very rare;
  4. Don’t give into “opiophobia”;
  5. Tapering is easy;
  6. Effective for chronic pain.

Their marketing was tragically successful. In 1996 when Purdue Pharma introduced OxyContin until 2016, accidental overdoses from opioids increased from 300,000 per year to over 1.7 million resulting in 64,000 deaths in 2016 alone. Additionally, since 2000 over half a million Americans have died from opioid overdoses.

Commissioner Moran ended his post by committing to take the fight against the drug manufacturers to court and working with his fellow commissioners to find the right legal team to handle the suit on a contingency basis.

For more information read the full piece written by Commissioner James Moran.

Briefings Focus on Opioids, Behavioral Health, PDMP and More

The Senate Finance Committee heard a full afternoon of  briefings focused on behavioral health issues.

Representatives from the Maryland Department of Health (MDH) and the Opioid Operational Command Center (OOCC) briefed the committee on their progress in addressing the opioid crisis. MDH was represented by Chief Operating Officer Dennis Schrader and Deputy Secretary of Behavioral Health Dr. Barbara Bazron. The OOCC was represented by Executive Director Clay Stamp.

Stamp discussed the administration’s statewide mobilization efforts through the OOCC, which including the local opioid intervention teams, and how the funds appropriated for this crisis over the past year have been used. He closed his remarks by noting that we can’t arrest or treat our way out of the crisis. We need to educate and prevent ourselves out and it will be a long haul.

Schrader provided remarks on organizational changes and big picture focus of MDH and Bazron presented on the specifics of how MDH has been implementing the Administration’s four key objectives that Stamp had outlined:

  1. Prevention –  “Talk to Your Doc” and Talk to Your Patient” campaigns; implementing Compliance and PDMP changes required under the HOPE act
  2. Early intervention – Expansion of SBIRT; identifying and implementing improvements to Maryland’s Crisis hotline
  3. Treatment and Recovery – Supporting the development of crisis treatment centers; expanding residential treatment capacity
  4. Enhanced data collection and sharing – Expansion of PDMP; use of Predictive Risk Model to Combat Overdose Grant (PRECOG); enhanced state surveillance of overdose data

Senators raised questions about access to naloxone, frustrations with the roll out of the statewide hotline.

The next set of briefings focused on the Prescription Drug Monitoring Program (PDMP).

Representatives from CRISP (Chesapeake Regional Information System for our Patients) briefed the committee on updates to the PDMP including streamlining the registration process and improving integration with hospitals. Schrader and Bazron reported on the department’s progress on implementing the expansion of the PDMP as required under the 2017 session’s HOPE Act. The Department’s efforts have resulted in 96% of required prescribers registered.

The afternoon of health-focused briefings included panels and updates from the Maryland Hospital Association and other stakeholders broadly on the behavioral health crisis and specifically on the use of electronic health records.