Recent News

How to stop the deadliest drug overdose crisis in American history (Vox)

The scale of America’s opioid epidemic is shocking.

It is the deadliest drug overdose crisis in US history. In 2016 alone, drug overdoses likely killed more Americans in one year than the entire Vietnam War. In 2015, drug overdoses topped annual deaths from car crashes, gun violence, and even HIV/AIDS during that epidemic’s peak in 1995. In total, more than 140 people are estimated to die from drug overdoses every day in the US. About two-thirds of these drug overdose deaths are linked to opioids.

Yet so far, there’s been a lack of policy action to end the opioid epidemic. Much of what has been done has focused on reducing the amount of prescription painkillers out there, yet the latest federal data shows prescriptions were still three times what they were in 1999. Other prevention efforts have focused on stopping heroin and fentanyl from entering the US, but they have so far failed to make a dent in the flow of these drugs.

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Baltimore enlists doulas to help bring infant mortality rate down (Baltimore Sun)

When Kendra Nelson was in labor with her second child, small gestures from a doula helped her get through the strongest and most painful contractions. The woman held Nelson’s hand and spoke words of encouragement. She guided Nelson through breathing exercises and pulled her hair back in a scrunchie to keep her comfortable.

“She was there as a form of support and it made my delivery better,” said Nelson, 32.

Now Nelson is working to become a doula herself, in hopes of helping other women experience a healthier pregnancy and better delivery. Baltimore health officials hope she will play a role in helping to reduce the city’s infant mortality rate.

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Trump’s opioid epidemic commission wants the president to declare a state of emergency (Vox)

A commission created by President Donald Trump has asked him to declare a state of emergency over the nation’s opioid epidemic.

The recommendation, from a preliminary draft of the opioid commission’s report, comes in the midst of grueling statistics linked to the epidemic. In 2016 alone, drug overdoses likely killed more Americans in one year than the entire Vietnam War. In 2015, drug overdoses topped annual deaths from car crashes, gun violence, and even HIV/AIDS during that epidemic’s peak in 1995.

“With approximately 142 Americans dying every day, America is enduring a death toll equal to September 11th every three weeks,” the report argues. “After September 11th, our President and our nation banded together to use every tool at our disposal to prevent any further American deaths. Your declaration would empower your cabinet to take bold steps and would force Congress to focus on funding and empowering the Executive Branch even further to deal with this loss of life.”

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CityLab comes to Baltimore Wednesday (Baltimore Sun)

As Baltimore officials attempt to tackle some of the city’s long-festering problems, experts from around the country are coming to town to discuss ideas for progress.

At “CityLab Baltimore,” which takes place Wednesday afternoon, leaders from New York, Boston, Rhode Island, Albany, N.Y., New Orleans and Detroit plan to discuss ideas to address blight and drug abuse, among other problems.

“The basic idea is to create a moment for city leaders to exchange ideas about what’s working and what’s not and how we can get better together,” said James Anderson, who leads the government lnnovation programs at Bloomberg Philanthropies.

The Atlantic, the Aspen Institute and Bloomberg are co-sponsors of the event, which will take place at the Parkway Theatre at 5 West North Avenue at 2 p.m. The theater quickly filled up, but organizers said additional tickets might become available.

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Impact of Affordable Care Act Repeal on America’s Opioid Epidemic (Plos-Blogs)

The November 2016 U.S. elections resulted in a Republican sweep of the Presidency and both chambers of Congress. Republicans’ first major policy priority has been to “repeal and replace” the Obama Administration’s effort to reform healthcare, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA), signed into law in 2010. To date, a key component of proposed legislation from both the House and Senate has been severe cuts to Medicaid, which currently provides the lion’s share of health insurance for low-income Americans.

These legislative proposals have been introduced at a time when the U.S. is experiencing an epidemic of opioid addiction and overdose. In 2015, there were more than 2.6 million Americans with opioid use disorder (OUD) [1]. During the same year, more than 33,000 died of overdoses involving one or more opioids, corresponding to an age-adjusted opioid-related death rate of 10.4 per 100,000 [2]—more than triple the rate in 2000 [3]. The U.S. now accounts for about a quarter of the world’s drug-related deaths [4].

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Could you walk a billion steps in a year? (WBAL)

Could you walk a billion steps in a year? That's the challenge posed by Baltimore City and the Baltimore City Health Department as part of a new initiative that kicks off this weekend.

"We're trying to get 1 billion steps by next year, and we know we can do it," walking ambassador Coach Donte Samuel said.

 

Baltimore's Billion Step Challenge asks city residents of all ages to reach that goal in the next year.

"That campaign involves the city actually organizing events throughout the year that people can come and participate in, but it also is going to include us inventorying all the great things that are already happening in the city related to opportunities for people to get active and be more fit," said Greg Sileo, with the Baltimore Health Department.

That includes things like the November Project that brings folks together for a fun workout, or the Safe Zones at Belmont Camp to get kids started on a healthy lifestyle while they're still young.

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Mayors, Health Experts, and Artists to Discuss Trends Impacting Cities at First Ever “CityLab Baltimore” (The Atlantic)

The Atlantic, Bloomberg Philanthropies, and the Aspen Institute will host CityLab Baltimore, a half-day “pop-up” summit exploring the key challenges and opportunities faced by American cities today, from public health to cultural investment. The event, which is part of an ongoing partnership, will take place on Wednesday, August 2, from 2-5pm ET at the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Parkway Theater in Baltimore (5 West North Avenue). Baltimore itself provides the central backdrop for CityLab, which will include a series of conversations about the future of the city— while offering lessons for other urban leaders facing similar issues in their own communities. Topic areas across the afternoon will include strategies urban leaders can use for reducing blight; public health and heroin addiction in cities; and the role of culture as an engine for urban regeneration.

Former New York City mayor and founder of Bloomberg Philanthropies Michael R. Bloomberg and Johns Hopkins University president Ron Daniels will give opening remarks at the event. Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh will join the program for a conversation on Baltimore’s changing urban landscape and how the city can promote equitable growth. Additional speakers include:

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Healthwatch With Dr. Leana Wen: ACA Repeal Update; Zika Virus; Corner Food Stores (WYPR)

It’s another edition of Healthwatch, our monthly conversations with Baltimore City Health Commissioner Dr. LeanaWen.  She and Tom discuss a wide range of public health issues, from the weekend’s dangerous heat to the hot drama on Capitol Hill as Senate Republicans continue their struggle to repeal Obamacare. They also talk about White House plans to cut essential public health budgets, and about new state funds for a city program promoting healthier food options in the city's corner food stores. And Dr. Wen has the latest on the continuing threat of the mosquito-borne Zika virus -- remember the Zika virus?

Tom and Dr. Wen also mention the Billion Steps Challenge. The Baltimore City Health Department is launching the program as part of its year-long Healthy Baltimore initiative. The BCHD, business partners, and community-based organizations are supporting this citywide wellness challenge to encourage all residents and employees in Baltimore City to get active. The Billion Steps Challenge launches this Saturday, July 29th, at an event at Lake Montebello.  For more details, check out the BCHD website.

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It's hot. But it's far from being a record (Baltimore Sun)

No doubt about it, it’s the traditional hot Artscape weekend. But the National Weather Service says we’re not in record-setting territory. On Friday afternoon, thermometers at BWI Thurgood Marshall Airport were showing 93 degrees. That felt like 100, taking humidity into account. But Dan Hofmann, a weather service meteorologist, said record temperatures this time of year are especially high.

The highest recorded for July 21 in Baltimore was 104 degrees in 1930. Records for July 22 and July 23 were set in 2011 when the temperature reached 106 and 102 degrees, respectively. Hofmann said we’re in for more hot weather through the weekend, as thousands of people head into the streets of Mount Vernon and Station North for Artscape.

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Artists and vendors battle heat in preparing for Artscape (WBFF)

As Baltimore prepares for the 36th Artscape, billed as the country's largest free arts festival, artists and vendors struggled in the sweltering heat to set up their exhibits. The three day festival begins Friday but dozens of workers were busy laying cable and erecting booths. Baltimore Artist Steve Bunker says he and friends built a huge campfire exhibit late Wednesday night to avoid the heat.

Baker says he has plenty of advice for those planning to attend the festival. "Drink a lot of water, try to stay cool as much as possible, no matter who you are, you're going to burn so swear some sunscreen, wear a hat," said Baker. He says he hopes the heat will not deter people from attending Artscape which routinely draws more than 300,000 visitors each year.

Baker says those worried about excessive heat during the day should attend the festival in the evening. "You know you beat the heat by not being in the heat, stay in the cooling tents." Gerald Riley, a city employee who was working at Artscape says he's used to Baltimore summers. "It really don't bother me when you get used to it, really the sweating is good for you really," said Riley. But last year in Baltimore City, five people died of heat related illness.

Baltimore City Health Commissioner Dr. Leana Wen says excessive heat can be a silent killer. "So watch out for signs of hypothermia, which is high body temperature, and dehydration. "Stay indoors when possible in air conditioned spaces when it's going to be the hottest," said Dr. Wen. Artscape is open 11am to 9pm Friday and Saturday and 11am to 8pm on Sunday.

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