Recent News

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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Opioid Overdoses: Mass Casualty Zones In America NPR’s (1A)

Last year alone, more Americans died from a drug overdose than were lost fighting the war in Vietnam.

Opioids, including pain medicines, are turning some cities into mass casualty zones.

President Trump promised to “dramatically expand access to treatment.”

So what’s been done? And what should we do?


Lenny Bernstein Health and medicine reporter, The Washington Post

Dr. Leana Wen Baltimore City Health Commissioner; emergency physician

Phil Plummer Sheriff, Montgomery County, Ohio

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Study shows opioid-related emergency department visits highest in Maryland (WBAL)

A new nationwide survey on hospital ER visits and inpatient care shows Maryland ranks No. 1 in opioid-related hospital stays.

As communities handle a growing drug crisis, hospitals in Maryland and other places are treating more and more patients with opioid-related problems.

The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality released a study Tuesday showing 1.27 million emergency room visits and inpatient stays in 2014, the latest year numbers were available.

Opioid-related emergency department visits were highest in Maryland, the study found. Nationwide inpatient stays increased 64 percent, with patients ages 25-44 and 45-64 having the highest rates. The data comes from 44 states and Washington, D.C.

Baltimore City Health Commissioner Dr. Leana Wen addressed hospitalizations and overdoses, saying: "It's not surprising. We are seeing a large increase in the number of fatal overdoses here in Baltimore and across Maryland."

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Baltimore City Health Commissioner Deeply Concerned About Health of Vulnerable Populations Affected by Senate Health Care Proposal

BALTIMORE, MD (June 22, 2017)—Baltimore City Health Commissioner Dr. Leana Wen issued the following statement in response to the Senate’s bill to replace the Affordable Care Act released today.

Note from the Commissioner: Our Duty to Protect the Most Vulnerable Populations

In public health, it is our duty to protect the most vulnerable populations, from babies to seniors.

As an expecting mother, I know that prenatal care is essential to a baby’s good health. This week, BCHD hosted a celebration for 11 graduates from the Nursing Family Partnership, a program that supports first-time expecting parents by pairing them with nurses who provide important resources and encouragement. Programs like NFP support women with essential education and empower mothers to build healthy families.

How Medicaid fits into Maryland's opioid crisis (WYPR)

Sixty-four-year old Johnnie Davis has been treating his heroin addiction at the Bon Secours New Hope Treatment Center in West Baltimore for nearly 20 years.

“When I came here, I didn’t have no insurance,” he said. “And if I wasn’t here, I could imagine where my life would have turned because I was known for drugs — selling drugs.”

With no insurance and no job, Davis paid $8 a week for the Methadone program. The clinic later helped him get health coverage through Medicaid. For the last 18 years or so, his treatment has been covered in full.

Maryland is in the midst of an epidemic. More than 1,800 people died last year from overdosing on opioids, a 70-percent increase from the year before, according to data released last week by the state Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.

Medicaid covers roughly 20 percent of Maryland residents, but Medicaid patients make up a larger portion of the Marylanders grappling with addiction.

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