Baltimore City Health Commissioner Responds to Congress’ Passage of Opioid Epidemic Legislation

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BALTIMORE, MD (July 13, 2016) – Today, Baltimore City Health Commissioner Dr. Leana Wen issued the following statement in response to Congress’ passage of legislation to combat the nation’s opioid epidemic, known as The Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA).

“In Baltimore City, we have been at the forefront of fighting the opioid epidemic for decades. While we commend our Congressional leaders for passing this legislation to support communities like ours, it is discouraging that this legislation does not include immediate and desperately-needed funding to treat and prevent opioid addiction.

“From 2013 to 2015, heroin-related overdose deaths increased by 73 percent in our city. Fentanyl-related deaths increased 10-fold in that same time period. Since then, we have launched an aggressive overdose prevention program, including issuing a blanket prescription for the antidote, naloxone. Those interventions are showing early signs of progress; since 2015, we have trained more than 12,000 residents to use the opioid antidote naloxone so that they can save a life.

“We have made significant strides around the disease of addiction, but we cannot continue to make progress without also providing funding for quality, on-demand treatment. While I support the package of opioid policies passed, it will take actual dedicated funding to attack this crisis—funding that this legislation unfortunately does not provide.

“I call on Congress to move swiftly to provide adequate resources to support this critical health priority. Without funding appropriated directly to local agencies and urban areas, we are falling short of implementing the kind of proactive and robust prevention and treatment efforts that patients deserve.

“By continuing to work with our federal leaders to invest in treatment, we can truly address this public health emergency and save lives."