Note from the Commissioner: Innovative Efforts in Baltimore to Combat the Opioid Epidemic

This week, leaders, healthcare professionals, and other frontline workers from across the U.S. came to Baltimore for the National Conference on Addiction Disorders to learn more about our innovative efforts to combat the opioid epidemic.

The reality in Baltimore and across the country is that we need a national state of emergency to ensure that those of us on the ground have the support and resources we need to prevent the opioid crisis from worsening. This must go beyond rhetoric. We need resources behind this declaration.

Baltimore City has been on the cutting edge of addressing the opioid epidemic with our three-pronged strategy, which I also discussed yesterday with Deputy Assistant Secretary Kana Enomoto and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service’s Administration’s leadership at a meeting of their National Advisory Council. Over the past two years, Baltimore City’s blanket prescription for naloxone, accompanied by targeted outreach efforts, has resulted in more than 1,100 lives saved by everyday residents. Unfortunately, we have had to ration our limited supply of this antidote due to lack of funding. We know that we can save more lives. We need the funding to do so.

This week, we joined Mayor Catherine E. Pugh to officially announce one of the groundbreaking efforts that BCHD has implemented through the TECHealth program. BCHD identified the seven most pressing public health challenges in Baltimore, then recruited teams of engineers, designers, coders, and community members to develop targeted solutions with us. We are excited to partner with Code in the Schools and have student participants come up with an app to help us to spread the word about preventing fatal overdoses.

I end this week’s letter on a somber note. Our work in public health is to serve every person with dignity, humanity, and compassion. There is no room for bigotry, discrimination, or racism. We must all stand together to condemn the devastating and tragic display of hatred in Charlottesville. And we applaud the swift and decisive actions taken by Mayor Pugh to remove the symbols of oppression and racism in our City. As Holocaust survivor and Nobel Laureate Elie Wiesel reminds us:

“We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.”

Let us never fail to speak up, speak out, and advocate for peace, justice, and equality.


Leana S. Wen, M.D., M.Sc.

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Note from the Commissioner: Protecting our Community’s Health

This week, I celebrated the Asian-American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month celebration as the keynote speaker for the FBI’s Baltimore Field Office. By invitation of Special Agent in Charge Gordon Johnson, I applauded the efforts of the FBI to embrace diversity and inclusion in their work. I discussed the shared core values driving the work of those of us on the frontlines of public health and public safety: Compassion, fairness, and respect for the dignity of all those we protect. And I had the opportunity conduct a naloxone training for agents and analysts and discuss how addiction is a disease for which we must all approach with urgency.

All sectors must be engaged to protect our community’s health and well-being. I was glad to provide the opening keynote for the United Way of Central Maryland’s Emerging Leaders United Young Professionals Conference. These young professionals are coming from backgrounds as diverse as finance, law, architecture, and accounting, but each of them are engaged in social justice and community service. Researchers and academics can be just as engaged. Last Thursday, I presented to doctors, nurses, and public health researchers as part of the Women’s Health, Sex, and Gender Research Symposium at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. There, I discussed the importance of academic researchers building relationships with the local communities in which they work. Everyone can make a difference in the communities we live and serve.

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Bmore Healthy Newsletter: May 18, 2018

Click here to read the 5/18/18 newsletter. Subscribe to the Bmore Healthy newsletter.

In this issue:

  • Note from the Commissioner
  • WYPR 88.1FM – Dr. Wen Participates in Midday’s “Healthwatch” Segment
  • Dr. Wen Speaks at United Way of Central Maryland’s Emerging Young Leaders United (ELU) Young Professionals Conference
  • and more

Note From The Commissioner: Treating Addiction in our Hospitals

Last week, Mayor Catherine E. Pugh and I convened all 11 hospitals in Baltimore to announce our partnership to combat the opioid epidemic. Addiction is a disease. Treatment for it cannot be siloed and stigmatized.

Baltimore City hospitals have done exceptional work already. Nearly all of our City’s ERs offer medication-assisted treatment on demand and peer recovery specialists, something true of no other major city in America. Through my standing order for naloxone, more than 36,000 residents have been trained to use the antidote medication, and these residents have saved more than 1,900 lives. Law enforcement and health officials teamed up to start a program that allows residents arrested for low-level drug offenses the opportunity to choose treatment and case management instead of prosecution. In March, we announced the opening of our Stabilization Center, a first-of-its-kind 24/7 urgent care facility dedicated to issues of addiction and mental health.

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