Recent News

How does healthcare actually work? (Viceland)

Linette Lopez, Dr. Leana Wen, and Dr. Jay Parkinson discuss the money behind health—whether or not you need an expensive doctor, and how the healthcare industry actually works.

Watch the video.

5 things to know about the race to identify new deadly opioids (Becker's Hospital Review)

As newer and stronger synthetic opioids and synthetic opioid combinations continue to cause overdose flare-ups across the United States, Crime labs are working to identify these unfamiliar drugs.

A new report from STAT examined the issue. Here are five key takeaways from the report.

1. While the opioid analogs fentanyl and carfentanil — an elephant tranquilizer lethal for humans in minute doses — are now widely known, new analogs are cropping up in communities scattered across the nation.

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5. In Baltimore, firefighters responding to 911 calls and emergency room physicians now report sudden upticks in opioid overdoses to Leana Wen, MD, the city's health commissioner, who can dispatch outreach teams to hard-hit areas of the city in the same day.

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Baltimore teens built a system that sends text alerts during heroin overdose spikes (Technically)

Since October, a group of six teenagers have been meeting for three hours on Saturdays at Code in the Schools’ offices in Station North. They’re working on a tool that utilizes mobile phones to address one aspect of the city’s heroin crisis.

Bad Batch Alert sends text messages to alert people to a spike in overdoses in a given area.

The application amplifies data from Emergency Medical Services that gets analyzed by the Baltimore City Health Department. The application is designed to let loved ones or neighbors know when people are overdosing at a high rate in a given area, indicating the presence of a dangerous batch of heroin that could be tainted with a substance like fentanyl.

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CDC finds uneven progress on reducing reliance on addictive opioids (Baltimore Sun)

Fewer opioid painkillers are being prescribed to patients in half of U.S. counties, including most in Maryland, in recent years, but the amount remains three times what it was in 1999, according to new figures released Thursday by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The CDC and other public health officials have sought to curb prescriptions of these potent, but addictive painkillers because they are seen as a key contributor to the nationwide overdose epidemic. Users become hooked on them and later turn to cheaper and more deadly street drugs such as heroin.

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20-Year Gap In Life Expectancy Between Richer, Poorer Areas Of Baltimore (CBS)

New numbers show, in Baltimore, it really depends on where you grew up, according to the health department.

“When it comes down to it, the biggest driver is poverty,” says Health Department Commissioner Dr. Leana Wen.

New data says a baby born in a neighborhood like Homeland or Roland Park can expect to live to 84 years old. In Fells Point, Canton and Federal Hill, the life expectancy is around 79.

But in Clifton, Greenmount East, Sandtown or Druid Heights, the life expectancy is under 70. Those numbers are far below the city-wide average of 74.

Read the entire article. 

Kaiser, Bon Secours join forces on plan to improve health through economic opportunity (Baltimore Sun)

Under normal circumstances they would be competitors, but two Baltimore health systems are combining resources to create economic opportunities to address health disparities in the sickest neighborhoods in the state.

Kaiser Permanente of the Mid-Atlantic States announced Wednesdaythat it is giving Bon Secours Baltimore Health System $1.7 million to build a community resource center that officials hope will spur economic opportunity in communities that are part of the 21223 ZIP code of West Baltimore.

The two health systems think that increasing residents' ability to get jobs and earn a living will eventually improve their health.

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Old Hebrew Orphan Asylum In Baltimore To Be Transformed Into A Drug Rehabilitation Center (Morningside Maryland)

The city Board of Estimates will vote on a 15-year lease at the Hebrew Orphan Asylum at 2700 Rayner Avenue in West Baltimore on Wednesday. Baltimore officials plan to transform the building into a drug rehabilitation center that will serve an estimated 30 patients at a time.

A company, which is owned by Coppin Heights Community Development Corp., will assume the role as the center’s landlord. The nonprofit assumed responsibility of the center, when Coppin State University handed over the reins to them in 2015. The group’s executive director, Gary Rodwell, said the plan was to lease it to a health care provider, which did not happen.

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As new and lethal opioids flood U.S. streets, crime labs race to ID them (STAT News)

ATLANTA — The yellow pills had already killed four before landing in Brian Hargett’s lab last month. They were clearly counterfeit — the letters P-E-R-C-O-C-E-T were as crooked as the dealer who had peddled them throughout central Georgia — but now his chemists had to figure out exactly what they were. And fast. Lives were still at stake; health officials wanted to alert the public about the phony pills. First, though, they had to know what was in them.

At the Georgia Bureau of Investigation’s forensic lab outside Macon, Hargett assigned the tablets to one of his forensic chemists. She threw on her gown and gloves, weighed a pill, and dropped it in a skinny vial to soak in ethanol. Then she ran a test designed to separate and identify each substance in the pill. Two synthetic opioids showed up — including one never before seen in Georgia.

Their best guess: the little-known, and lethal, compound known as cyclopropyl.

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As the Drug That Reverses Opioid Overdoses Gets More Expensive, Can Cities Afford It? (Governing)

Just a few years ago, naloxone was a relatively obscure drug that few people outside of the medical community knew about. Fast forward to today, and most Americans have heard of it -- even if they can't recall its name.

Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe says he always carries it on him. New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez signed a law this year that requires all fire and police departments to keep it in stock. A few cities now let people buy it at the pharmacy without a prescription.

Naloxone is the life-saving antidote to an opioid overdose, reversing symptoms like respiratory failure and unconsciousness. In July 2016, the North Carolina Harm Reduction Coalition estimated that 38 states have at least one police department requiring officers to carry it. But with no end to the opioid epidemic in sight and the price of naloxone on the rise, public officials are starting to worry that they won’t be able to afford it much longer.

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

The coast-to-coast opioid epidemic is swamping hospitals, with recently published government data 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.

Read the entire story. 

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