Baltimore City Overdose Antidote Demand Outpacing Supply

An article in The Baltimore Sun reports how in the face of increased demand for and an increase of costs of naloxone, the Baltimore City Health Department is running low on supplies of the medication.

Demand for naloxone, an opioid antagonist that helps reverse an overdose, has increased as measures have been put into place to ease access to the medication in an effort to get it into the hands of those best situated to provide help during an overdose. Costs for the medication have risen along side demand.

Dr. Leana Wen, the city health commissioner, said demand has jumped significantly along with the drug epidemic and the health department needs funding for more supplies.

“We are rationing,” she said. “We’re deciding who is at the highest risk and giving it to them.”

The city has about 4,000 doses left to last until next May. The department will distribute them, two at a time, to residents, including IV drug users encountered by the city’s needle exchange vans or by outreach workers in “hotspots,” areas where a spate of overdoses recently occurred.

“If I had 10,000 doses and gave them to everyone who requested them, I’d run out in about two weeks,” Wen said.

Naloxone has become the cornerstone of the public health community’s emergency response to skyrocketing fatalities from opioids that include prescription painkillers, heroin and fentanyl, a powerful drug commonly mixed into heroin without the users knowledge. The goal is to keep opioid users alive long enough to get them into treatment.

And though Wen has more units on hand than she’s had in some recent years, she said it’s not enough to keep pace with rising needs.

Maryland health officials recently reported that 2,089 people fatally overdosed in the state in 2016, up 66 percent from 2015. About a third of the overall deaths, 694, were in Baltimore and the shares were higher for heroin and fentanyl. There are an estimated 21,000 active heroin users in Baltimore.

For more information read The Baltimore Sun

Drop in Elementary School Attendance Tied to Heroin Epidemic

Education officials in Allegany County saw a decrease in elementary school attendance during the 2016-2017 school year connected to the heroin crisis. The drop included 21 enrollment cancellations.

The Cumberland Times-News reports:

The issue was revealed Tuesday at a meeting of the Allegany County Board of Education at the Central Office on Washington Street.

Officials said the problem was primarily at the elementary school level and was a result of parental drug problems impacting children’s daily lives.

Nil Grove, chief technology officer, gave a report of the situation.

“We have to report to MSDE (Maryland State Department of Education) our attendance,” said Grove. “The attendance decrease in 2016 to 2017 was a result of our opioid crisis in the county. It was directly related to that. It’s pretty sad, but that is something that did happen, where our students were unable to attend based on problems in their home.”

Officials said the problems occur when parents’ addictions to narcotics run counter to the child’s educational needs.

For more information read the full article in The Cumberland Times-News

Anne Arundel County Schools Add New Summer Meal Sites

The Anne Arundel County School system has expanded their free Summer Meals program. The program helps serve nutritious meals to children in need. Many low-income children across the state rely on the Summer
Meals Program to ensure they do not go hungry when school is no longer in session.

As  reported in The Capital Gazette:

“School’s out for summer and we’re excited,” said Jodi Risse, supervisor of food and nutrition services for county schools. “(But) we want to continue to feed and fuel our students throughout the summer.”

The free summer meals program is offered to students in areas of economic need, Risse said. Those are areas where 50 percent or more of students receive free or reduced-priced meals. Last summer, Mobile Meals served 14,861 meals.

New school sites at Annapolis Middle and Lothian Elementary schools are among 15 locations across the county. Some are open to the public, meaning anyone ages 2-18 can utilize the free meals — there are no income or registration requirements — while others serve children in specific programs.

Last summer the program — including breakfast, lunch, dinner and mobile meals— totaled more than 82,000 meals, data provided by county schools showed.

This summer, however, with the new school sites and Mobile Meals routes, the goal is to serve over 100,000 meals, Risse said.

Read The Capital Gazette to learn more.

Harford Community College Makes Heroin-Opioid Training Mandatory for Full-Time Students

All incoming full-time students at Harford Community College, under a new policy approved Tuesday, will be required to attend heroin addiction and awareness training.

As reported by The Aegis,

The college will also have doses of Narcan on hand and its special police officers will know how to administer it, according to college officials.

“I thank God every day we have not had to respond in this way,” HCC President Dianna Phillips told the trustees during a meeting in Edgewood Hall Tuesday evening.

In response to the growing heroin and opioid epidemic across the state, the Maryland General Assembly passed bills in the House and the Senate during the 2017 session requiring community colleges to create a policy to address heroin and opioid addiction and prevention. Trustees approved the policy at Tuesday’s meeting.

According to the policy that goes into effect July 1, incoming full-time students will be required to participate in online or in-person heroin and opioid addiction and awareness training. The same information will be available for part-time students, but it will not be required. They will be provided with resources to alert and educate them on addiction and prevention.

As of Monday, there have been 195 heroin-related overdoses in Harford this year, and 41 of them have been fatal, according to the Harford County Sheriff’s Office.

In addition to the training, HCC will maintain a supply of Narcan, the overdose reversing medication used in emergencies. In addition to being trained to administer the medication, HCC special police officers will be trained to recognize symptoms of an opioid overdose and to properly follow up on emergency procedures related to an opioid overdose.

Read the full article for more information.

City Program Trains Youth for Water Industry Jobs

An article in The Baltimore Sun highlights the Baltimore City Water Industry Career Mentoring Program which provides career training to city youth and helps clean polluted waterways in the process.

The idea is to solve two of Baltimore’s biggest problems — joblessness and polluted waterways.

Officials said the Mayor’s Office of Employment Development developed the program to address the retirement of seasoned workers in the water industry and a shortage of trained workers to replace them.

Jobs to be filled range from working on pipes to fixing erroneous water bills. Youths receive six months of mentoring and a chance to earn a career in the industry.

Mayor Catherine Pugh said the program lets Baltimore “take the lead in training the next generation of workers in the water profession.”

The mentoring program includes job-readiness training, introduction to different jobs in the water industry, job shadowing, work with a career coach, and a placement in the city’s summer jobs program, called YouthWorks. Participants then interview for full-time jobs that typically start at around $30,000 a year. The new employees are put on a path that often leads to salary increases, a department spokesman said.

“It’s a way for people who aren’t college-savvy to get a trade that you can do with your hands and still help out and contribute,” Dorsey said. “If this opportunity hadn’t presented itself, I would have been doing a lot of job-hopping.”

For more information read the full article in The Baltimore Sun

County workforce development and support services will be discussed at the 2017 MACo Summer Conference session “Second Chance for Workplace Success – A Good Program is Good for Your County“.

The MACo summer conference is August 16-19, 2017 at the Roland Powell Convention Center in Ocean City Maryland. This year’s theme is “You’re Hired!”.

Learn more about MACo’s Summer Conference:

Drones Carrying Defibrillators Could Aid Heart Emergencies

It sounds futuristic: drones carrying heart defibrillators swooping in to help bystanders revive people stricken by cardiac arrest.

Researchers in Chicago tested the idea by using small drones to carry heart defibrillators to homes where people had cardiac arrests.

WBAL reports,

The drones arrived about 5 minutes after launching — almost 17 minutes faster than ambulances. That’s a big deal for a condition where minutes mean life or death. The next step is to test the idea on real patients.

The researchers used a small heart defibrillator weighing less than two pounds, featuring an electronic voice that gives instructions on how to use the device. It was attached to a small drone equipped with four small propeller-like rotors, a global positioning device, and camera.

They launched the drone from a fire station within about 6 miles from homes where people had previous cardiac arrests.

There were no crashes or other mishaps during the study.

The Federal Aviation Administration requires that commercial operators obtain a pilot’s license and keep the drones in their sightlines. Drones are allowed to fly no higher than 400 feet off the ground during daylight hours.

Legislation enacted in 2015 made Maryland one of only three states to grant the state government exclusive power to regulate drone usage, preempting municipalities and counties from enacting their own ordinances. MACo opposed this legislation as a preemption of county authority and was able to secure an amendment to assess the need for new laws or local tools after three years of industry maturation.

MACo, along with the Maryland State Police, are among the stakeholders charged with evaluating any safety or security problems arising from drone use as the industry expands in the years ahead. The stakeholder group will report its findings to the governor in 2018.

Useful Links

Previous Conduit Street Coverage: Appeals Court Strikes Down Drone Regulation Law

Previous Conduit Street Coverage: Drones Must be Registered Under New Federal Rule

Previous Conduit Street Coverage: General Assembly Passes Drone Bill With Study Amendment

Previous Conduit Street Coverage: To Detect, Deter, & Stop Unsafe Drone Use

Report Ranks Child Health Data, Maryland Scores a ‘Mixed Bag’

An annual report released by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, KIDS COUNT Data Book, uses health, education, economic well-being, and family and community indicators to determine how children and families across the nation are fairing. States are ranked according to these measures. This year Maryland ranked 16th in the nation for overall child well-being.

ABC2 News reports:

Umunna helped supply the Annie E. Casey Foundation, the publisher of the KIDS COUNT Data Book, with Maryland data. He said the latest information is a mixed bag. There were some improvements as well as some worrisome trends.

“We also see numbers in that report that are not very positive, particularly in the area of health,” said Umunna.

There were more child and teen deaths in 2015, which is 70 more than the year prior. While the numbers don’t specify the reason behind the spike, Umunna and his team have identified some factors.

“One of them is opioid abuse, and also the lack of prenatal care and other factors, so we think [health] is the particular area that should be looked at,” he said.

The percentage of teens who abuse alcohol or drugs is the same as five years ago. It remained steady at 6 percent. The stagnation coupled with the death rate contributed to the state’s drop in overall health rank from 22 to 30.

However, there was significant improvement in the number of children with health insurance in Maryland and nationwide.

“We see a very steep drop in the number of children who are uninsured nationally,” said Umunna.

U.S. children with health insurance is at 95 percent, a historic high. The report’s authors credit the bump to the Affordable Care Act and expansions to Medicaid and the children’s health insurance programs, the same programs that could be seeing cuts in the future.

According to the report Maryland ranked 15th in economic well-being, 12th in education, 30th for health, and 20th for family and community.

Read the ABC2 News article and Annie E. Casey Foundation Report for more information.

Maryland’s health care system and the potential impacts pending federal changes may have on it will be a topic of discussion at the 2017 MACo Summer Conference session “The ABCs of ACA, ACHA and Health Care in Maryland“.

The MACo summer conference is August 16-19, 2017 at the Roland Powell Convention Center in Ocean City Maryland. This year’s theme is “You’re Hired!”.

Learn more about MACo’s Summer Conference:

Naloxone Standing Order in Effect, Pharmacy Availability Expands

A standing order for naloxone issued by Deputy Secretary of Public Health Dr. Howard Haft became effective June 1, 2017. Naloxone, a drug that is effective in reversing an opioid overdose, is now available for sale at pharmacies across the state without the requirement of training certification or a prescription.

The Capital Gazette reports:

“Pharmacies play an important role in providing access to naloxone and counseling on how to recognize and respond to an opioid overdose,” Haft said. “This order is yet another tool to fight this crisis and to provide immediate assistance to overdose victims.”

During the last General Assembly session, legislators passed the Heroin and Opioid Prevention Effort and Treatment Act, an omnibus bill that looked to improve access to mental health and treatment centers as well as improve drug awareness education.

Haft’s order serves as a supplemental measure to those efforts by removing a requirement that only those trained and certified through the Maryland Overdose Response Program were allowed to have naloxone.

The order comes days after the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene released a report that showed a 66 percent increase in alcohol and drug overdose related deaths in Maryland from 2015 to 2016.

A significant portion of the increase was opioid-related deaths, with fatalities linked to the synthetic opioid fentanyl more than tripling from 2015 to 2016, jumping from 340 deaths to 1,119 deaths.

County and state officials have pointed to the availability of naloxone training as possibly stemming some of the deadly tide.

In Anne Arundel County, which saw the third most opioid overdose deaths in the state last year according to the agency, the rate of fatal overdoses is down in 2017 when compared to the same time in 2016, according to police statistics.

“By allowing even more people access to naloxone, we’re helping to save lives,” said Clay Stamp, executive director of the Opioid Operational Command Center. “We must remember though, that ultimately, those suffering from the disease of addiction or substance use disorder must be linked to additional treatment to aid in their recovery.”

Read The Capital Gazette to learn more.

Prior coverage on Conduit Street:

Pharmacies Prepare for Naloxone Standing Order 

Federal Funding for Opioid Abuse Treatment Caught in Healthcare Debate

As reported by The Hill,

Senate Republicans are considering adding funding for opioid abuse treatment to their ObamaCare repeal bill, according to senators and aides.

The move would be meant to ease concerns about the effect on opioid addiction treatment from rolling back ObamaCare’s expansion of Medicaid, which currently plays a major role in providing coverage for that treatment.

For more information, see Senate GOP considers adding opioid funding to ObamaCare repeal bill.

Secretary Moyer Selected to Lead Regional Drug Trafficking Program

Governor Larry Hogan today announced that Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services Secretary Stephen T. Moyer was selected as vice-chairman of the Washington/Baltimore High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA). This federal program, administered by the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, is designed to provide resources for federal, state, and local entities to aid in combating drug trafficking by supporting and collaborating with the region’s law enforcement, treatment, and prevention partners.

According to a press release,

“Heroin and opioid addiction is tearing families and communities apart at the seams all across our state, our region, and our nation. We need to bring all hands on deck to combat this epidemic and bring those who seek to destroy our communities to justice,” said Governor Hogan. “Steve Moyer is a demonstrated leader and I have every confidence his experience will be a tremendous asset in fighting drug trafficking in our region.”

Secretary Moyer will serve as vice-chairman for HIDTA, in addition to his leadership role at Public Safety, and he will become the chairman of HIDTA in June 2018.  As secretary, he manages an agency with over 10,000 employees and $1.4 billion budget that includes the Divisions of Corrections, Parole and Probation, and Pre-Trial Release Services. Previously, Secretary Moyer served for 24 years as a Maryland State Trooper, achieving the rank of Lt. Colonel.

Secretary Moyer’s selection comes as the region confronts an evolving opioid crisis, which has escalated with the introduction of the deadly additive fentanyl. In March, Governor Hogan declared a State of Emergency to address the drug scourge, committing $50 million in funding over the next five years for law enforcement, prevention, and treatment services.

Read the full press release for more information.