Recent News

Health Care Bill Could Boot People With Addiction Out of Treatment (TIME)

The health care bill released by Senate Republicans on Thursday is stoking outrage among mental health and addiction groups for its proposed steep cuts to Medicaid, the government’s largest health insurance program. Medicaid is the single largest payer for mental health services in the United States and provides coverage for millions of Americans with mental health or substance abuse disorders.

The proposed change is especially painful for these organizations because they saw an expansion of mental health coverage under the Affordable Care Act. After it was enacted, an estimated 2.8 million Americans with substance use disorders and 1.3 million with serious mental illness gained health insurance coverage for the first time under Medicaid expansion. In some states, Medicaid programs cover more than 40% of prescriptions of buprenorphine, a drug that treats opioid addiction.

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Baltimore, other cities with opioid crisis short on overdose antidote (Fox News)

Baltimore averaged around two opioid-related overdose deaths a day last year  — an inordinately high number for a city of just over 622,000.

City health officials, however, say that number could have been even higher if not for the availability of naloxone, the overdose reversal drug that has been used hundreds of times over the last few years amid the ongoing opioid epidemic plaguing Baltimore and other U.S. communities.

But with an estimated 21,000 active heroin users in Baltimore and only about 4,000 doses of naloxone to last until next May, officials in Maryland’s largest city are concerned that they will run out of the lifesaving drug by the end of July.

“Naloxone is a pure antidote to opioid overdoses,” Leana Wen, the Baltimore city health commissioner, told Fox News. “It’s safe, effective, easy to administer and brings somebody back from overdose literally in seconds.”

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Watch Dr. Leana Wen speak in Washington Post opioid crisis panel (Daily Record)

Policymakers, researchers and health care experts examined the country’s opioid crisis and discussed ways to fight addiction in America on Wednesday in a series of panels put together by The Washington Post.

One panel, shown here, featured Dr. Leana Wen, Health Commissioner of Baltimore City. She spoke along with Dr. Andrew Kolodny, Co-Director of Opioid Policy Research at Brandeis University about how doctors and prescription providers are looking at new approaches to prevent, treat, and break patterns of addiction in communities across the country.

Watch the entire segment. 

If you don't qualify for Medicaid, you get tax credits (CNBC)

Dr. Leana Wen, health commissioner for Baltimore, Maryland and Paul Howard, senior fellow and director of health policy at Manhattan Institute,  discuss the impact of the GOP Senate healthcare bill.

Wath the entire segment. 

States Step Up IT Efforts in Battle Against Opioid Epidemic (State Tech Magazine)

The opioid epidemic is on the rise. Government data published June 20, which surveyed opioid-related hospital visits between 2005 and 2014, revealed a 64 percent uptick in inpatient care and a doubling of opioid-related emergency room visits.

Of the 30 states involved in the study, Maryland topped the list as the hardest hit by the epidemic. A state report released in June found that opioid-related deaths had nearly quadrupled since 2010.

“We see overdoses in all ethnic groups, in all Zip codes,” Leana Wen, Baltimore City’s health commissioner, told the Washington Post. The city is one of the hardest hit by the issue, seeing nearly two deaths a day from drug- and alcohol-related overdoses in 2016.

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Here’s How the Senate Health Bill Will Make the Opioid Crisis Even More Devastating (Mother Jones)

On Thursday morning, Senate Republicans released their highly anticipated plan to repeal and replace Obamacare, titled the Better Care Reconciliation Act of 2017. The legislation quickly drew criticism from drug policy experts and politicians who worry that the bill cuts substance abuse and mental health services amidst a spiraling opioid epidemic. Drug overdoses killed 52,404 Americans in 2015 and  roughly 60,000 Americans last year—more than car accidents or gun violence. 

“I hope our Senators ask themselves—what will happen to the Americans grappling with opioid addiction who suddenly lose their coverage?” former President Barack Obama wrote in a Facebook post about the Senate bill.

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The Senate Health Bill Is a Disaster for the Opioid Crisis (WIRED)

After seven years of promising to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, Senate Republicans are now closer to achieving that goal than ever before. Thursday morning, they finally unveiled their secretly drafted healthcare bill. It is not, as some had hoped, a drastic departure from the House's version, which was passed last month. While being slightly less "mean," in that it provides more financial support to some lower-income groups, the Senate bill still lands punches to Obamacare in all the same places.

It still ends the healthcare mandate that every American be insured. It still gives power to the states to drop many of the essential benefits required by the ACA, including maternity care, emergency services, substance abuse, and mental healthcare treatments. It still ends the Medicaid expansion that helped 20 million people get insured (although one year later than the House proposed). And it places a cap on Medicaid, while simultaneously slashing about $840 billion from the entitlement program over the next 10 years to pay for enormous tax cuts for the wealthy. All of which adds up to very bad news for patients—but especially the 2.5 million Americans currently struggling with an opioid addiction.

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Dr. Leana Wen: ‘Huge stigma around treatment' of opioid addiction (Washington Post)

Dr. Leana Wen, Health Commissioner of Baltimore City, argues that there is a stigma surrounding opioid addiction, unlike other types of diseases and sickness. Wen says that only one in ten people get the help they need when it comes to opioid addiction.

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Opioids, a Mass Killer We’re Meeting With a Shrug (New York Times)

About as many Americans are expected to die this year of drug overdoses as died in the Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan wars combined.

For more than 100 years, death rates have been dropping for Americans — but now, because of opioids, death rates are rising again. We as a nation are going backward, and drug overdoses are now the leading cause of death for Americans under 50.

“There’s no question that there’s an epidemic and that this is a national public health emergency,” Dr. Leana Wen, the health commissioner of Baltimore, told me. “The number of people overdosing is skyrocketing, and we have no indication that we’ve reached the peak.”

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In just one year, nearly 1.3 million Americans needed hospital care for opioid-related issues (Washington Post)

The coast-to-coast opioid epidemic is swamping hospitals, with government data published Tuesday showing 1.27 million emergency room visits or inpatient stays for opioid-related issues in a single year.

The 2014 numbers, the latest available for every state and the District of Columbia, reflect a 64 percent increase for inpatient care and a 99 percent jump for emergency room treatment compared to figures from 2005. Their trajectory likely will keep climbing if the epidemic continues unabated.

The report, released by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), puts Maryland at the very top of the national list for inpatient care. The state, already struggling with overdoses from heroin and prescription opioids, has seen the spread of the synthetic opioid fentanyl, which can be mixed with heroin or cocaine and is extraordinarily powerful. Gov. Larry Hogan (R) this yeardeclared a state of emergency in response to the crisis.

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