Baltimore City Health Commissioner Issues Statement in Response to Increase in Fentanyl Deaths in Baltimore City

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

BALTIMORE, Md. (September 23, 2016) – Today, Baltimore City Health Commissioner Dr. Leana Wen issued the following statement in response to new data released by the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene showing an increase in fatal overdoses statewide. Preliminary data show that there were 290 fatal overdoses in Baltimore City during the first half of 2016, compared to 188 during the same time period last year:

“These new statistics further indicate what we already know: addiction is a pervasive and devastating disease affecting every corner of our state and nation. At a time when hundreds of Baltimoreans and thousands of Americans are dying from overdose, we must commit significant and sustained funding to combat the epidemic.

“We are in the midst of a public health emergency, yet the price of naloxone has increased drastically, and treatment remains out of reach for far too many. We need to provide the appropriate level of resources to comprehensively expand access to quality, on-demand treatment if we truly want to ensure that no more lives are lost to this devastating disease that affects individuals, families and communities.

“Last year, I declared opioid overdose a public health emergency in Baltimore City and we have trained more than 15,000 individuals on how to save a life with the overdose prevention medication naloxone. Since 2015, this medication has been used more than 400 times to save Baltimoreans experiencing an opioid overdose.

“These are important achievements, but without sustainable increased funding to combat this epidemic, we are merely treading water.

“Deaths involving fentanyl continue to skyrocket, increasing ten-fold since 2013 in Baltimore City. The Baltimore City Health Department is now leading a newly launched citywide Fentanyl Task Force to deploy rapid response teams for overdose spikes to educate residents about the dangers of this opioid, which is 50 times more potent than heroin.

“We must all act immediately to undo entrenched policies and practices that have led us to the opioid crisis. I encourage everyone to visit dontdie.org to learn to use naloxone to save a life today. Also, talk to your friends, family and community about the dangers of fentanyl. This opioid is extremely deadly and has already killed hundreds of our residents.

“Most of all, I urge us all to continue to push aside the stigma associated with disease. We are doing everything we can with limited funding. Now we need the commitment of our state and federal leaders so that we have the resources to save lives.

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