Baltimore City Health Department Offers Comment to CDC’s Proposed 2016 Guideline for Prescribing Opioids


BALTIMORE, MD (January 13, 2016)– Baltimore City Health Department (BCHD) officials issued a letter this week providing comment to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Proposed 2016 Guideline for Prescribing Opioids for Chronic Pain. This is the latest effort from BCHD to combat and ultimately end opioid use disorders abuse and overdose.

“In Baltimore City, we have declared opioid abuse a public health emergency. Though there is much that can be done on the city and state levels, we know that we cannot end the nation’s opioid epidemic without the support of and guidance from our federal partners,” said Baltimore City Health Commissioner Dr. Leana Wen. “We commend the CDC’s efforts to encourage best practices for prescribing, and applaud their continued efforts to bring greater national attention to this public health crisis.”

CDC issued the draft guideline in December 2015 to provide recommendations about opioid prescribing for primary care providers, and sought public comment closing today.

In the letter, BCHD supported CDC’s proposed guidelines to:

  • Encourage providers to offer naloxone to patients when patients  who show signs of increased risk for opioid overdose;
  • Expand review for a patient’s history of controlled substance prescriptions;
  • Increase availability of and support for evidence-based treatment; and
  • Change prescribing standards to move away from offering opioids as the first-line treatment for chronic pain.

Additionally, BCHD encouraged the CDC to include recommendations to:

  • Expand funding and availability of on-demand addiction treatment services;
  • Monitor and regulate the price and availability of naloxone; and
  • Advocate for a national stigma-reduction and opioid-awareness campaign.

These proposals were based on BCHD’s three-pronged framework to fight addiction and overdose in Baltimore through:

1) Preventing deaths from overdose and save the lives of people suffering from addiction:

In one of the most aggressive opioid overdose prevention campaigns across the country, Dr. Wen has taken a number of steps to expand access to the opioid overdose antidote, naloxone to those at-risk of experiencing an opioid overdose in Baltimore City, including issuing a “Standing Order” approved by the Maryland State Legislature in October 2015 enabling Dr. Wen to prescribe naloxone for all of Baltimore City’s 620,000 residents, and leading a citywide effort to expand the use of naloxone, training more than 7,000 residents in 2015.

2) Increasing access to quality and effective on-demand treatment and provide long-term recovery support:

Understanding that stopping overdose is only the first step in addressing addiction, Baltimore City has taken several actions to expand adequate access to on-demand treatment, including launching a 24/7 Crisis, Information, and Referral (CI&R) phone line that offers immediate access to trained professionals regarding substance use and mental health crisis calls, services, and treatment information; acquiring $3.6 million in funding to build a community-based Stabilization Center that will offer a more effective way to address public intoxication; and expanding hiring of community-based peer recovery specialists; and universal screening hospitals for addiction in our hospitals

3) Increasing addiction education and awareness for the public and for providers, in order to reduce stigma and encourage prevention and treatment:

In coordination with partners, the Baltimore City Health Department has launched two public education campaigns: “” and “Bmore in Control” designed to educate the public and providers on the disease of addiction and how communities must work more closely together play a role in preventing addiction and saving lives.

Last month, Dr. Wen testified before the United States Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) to offer her perspective on the opioid epidemic affecting millions across the country, and to propose suggestions to improve federal policies to combat and ultimately end opioid use disorders abuse and overdose.

“We look forward to the release of the final CDC guideline, which will be a valuable tool in educating providers about the important role they play in addressing the opioid epidemic,” added co-author Adrienne Breidenstine, BCHD and Behavioral Health System Baltimore’s Director of Opioid Overdose Prevention & Treatment. “By offering safer opioid prescribing practices, we will be able to further combat the disease of addiction in our communities.”

The full letter is available at:

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