Baltimore City Health Department Hosts U.S. Surgeon General to Highlight Innovative Efforts to Combat Opioid Epidemic

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

BALTIMORE, MD (April 5, 2016) – Baltimore City Health Department officials today welcomed U.S. Surgeon General, Dr. Vivek H. Murthy, to Baltimore as he kicked off a public engagement tour to facilitate a nationwide discussion on the prescription drug crisis in America.

“In Baltimore, we recognize that treating addiction as a crime is unscientific, inhumane, and ineffective— and that we must treat addiction as the disease it is by focusing on saving lives,” said Baltimore City Heath Commissioner Dr. Leana Wen. “We are honored to host the U.S. Surgeon General in Baltimore City as he starts this national tour. For decades, addiction has claimed the lives of countless citizens in our city. Baltimore has been on the forefront of providing evidence-based treatment, and we are proud to share our innovative programs around addiction recovery with the nation’s top doctor.”

During the day, Dr. Wen and Dr. Murthy toured the Man Alive Treatment Center, which serves individuals struggling with addiction and mental health disorders. Man Alive is the second oldest licensed medication-assisted treatment program in the country.

Later in the day, the U.S. Surgeon General participated in a roundtable discussion, hosted by Dr. Wen and OneBaltimore chairman, Michael Cryor, which brought together key leaders from diverse sectors across the city to discuss how health affects all policies, and the importance of catalyzing new partnerships in Baltimore and around the country.

Tuesday evening, Dr. Wen and Morgan State University president Dr. David Wilson hosted Dr. Murthy at for “Grand Rounds” with health professionals, medical students, and community leaders. Grand Rounds are a regular event in hospitals when health care practitioners come together to discuss challenges and to share best practices. Dr. Murthy concluded his visit to Baltimore with an address to Johns Hopkins University students at the Undergraduate Public Health Student Forum Conference “More Life for More Lives.”

"Addiction is affecting communities all across America. We can't effectively address addiction unless we stop seeing it as a moral failing and start seeing it for what it is: a chronic illness that must be treated with skill, urgency, and compassion," said U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy. "With its expanded focus on treatment, recovery, and ending the stigma around addiction, Baltimore serves as a model for cities across the country."

Tuesday’s tour was the latest effort from Dr. Wen and the Baltimore City Health Department to bring increased attention to the opioid crisis and highlight the innovative efforts ongoing in the city. Last week, Dr. Wen joined President Barack Obama on a panel at the National Rx Drug Abuse & Heroin Summit to discuss how the strategies being implemented in Baltimore are transforming the city into a national model for recovery.

There were 303 total drug and alcohol overdose deaths in Baltimore City in 2014, compared with 246 in 2013, a 23 percent increase. About 25,000 Americans die annually from opioid overdose.

Between 2002 and 2013, the rate of those dying from opioid-related overdoses has nearly quadrupled.

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