Baltimore Health Officials Announce New Online Training for Lifesaving Medication Naloxone

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

BALTIMORE, MD (February 17, 2016)– Baltimore City Health Commissioner Dr. Leana Wen today joined with President and CEO of Behavioral Health System Baltimore, Kathleen Westcoat, EMS Deputy Chief Mark Fletcher, and community partners to announce a new online platform that will train Baltimore City residents how to use naloxone, a medication that completely reverses the effect of an opioid overdose, and receive a “standing order” certification that will allow residents to receive naloxone without a separate prescription. This new module, available at http://www.dontdie.org/getcertified/, was introduced as recent statistics marked a sharp increase in fentanyl-related overdose deaths in Baltimore.

“The staggering increase in fentanyl-related overdose deaths in our city is a public health emergency,” said Baltimore City Health Commissioner Dr. Leana Wen. “Nearly every day in Baltimore, one person dies from drug overdose. It is our obligation to educate and save lives. By offering this new online training we will be able to put this lifesaving medication in the hands of more Baltimoreans.”

In Baltimore, there has been a sharp increase in fentanyl-related deaths. Fentanyl is a potent opioid normally used for medical treatment that is 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine. In the first quarter of 2015, there was a 178 percent increase in fentanyl-related deaths. In October alone, there were 14 deaths related to fentanyl—a 133 percent increase over the previous year. In response, Baltimore City Health Department officials recently sent letters to health leaders across the city urging them to warn people of the dangers of fentanyl-laced heroin and how to reduce risks related to heroin use. 

Dr. Wen has declared opioid overdose a public health emergency, and is leading one of the most aggressive opioid overdose prevention campaigns across the country, including:

  • Introducing a public awareness campaign on how to use naloxone, “DontDie.org,” and educating drug users about dangers of fentanyl;
  • Administering a citywide effort to expand the use of naloxone, training more than 8,000 residents in 2015 alone ; and
  • Issuing the State of Maryland’s first blanket prescription to make naloxone available for the city’s 620,000 residents.

“Despite this growing epidemic, opioid overdose is a preventable. When people know how to respond to an overdose and, are equipped with naloxone, we can decrease overdose deaths," said President and CEO of Behavioral Health System Baltimore, Kathleen Westcoat. “Behavioral health treatment providers can be powerful agents of change in reducing overdose deaths. That is why we are calling on our providers to incorporate overdose education into their programs and empower all patients to know how to save a life.”

Today’s release of an online naloxone training module will allow all city residents to get certified in delivering naloxone. These online trainings will dispense a certificate that residents can fill immediately at a pharmacy or receive medication from designated individuals, such as overdose response program trainees without a separate doctor’s prescription. Under standing orders, Dr. Wen serves as the prescriber for all city residents.

"Naloxone has already prevented hundreds of deaths across Baltimore, and through my standing order, we have been able to equip thousands of residents with the opportunity to save a life,” added Dr. Wen. “This online platform is the next step to reduce barriers to naloxone. In Baltimore we believe that naloxone should be part of everyone’s medicine cabinet and everyone’s First Aid kit. We have to remember: if we don’t save live today, there is no chance for a better tomorrow.”

Opioid abuse is an epidemic that kills about 25,000 Americans annually.

To learn more about the online training module, please visit http://dontdie.org/getcertified/

To learn more about standing orders or BCHD’s opioid overdose prevention campaign, please visit: http://health.baltimorecity.gov/opioid-overdose/baltimore-city-overdose-prevention-and-response-information

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