Baltimore City Health Commissioner Issues Statement in Response to Landmark Surgeon General Report on Alcohol, Drugs, and Health

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

BALTIMORE, MD (November 18, 2016)Baltimore City Health Commissioner Dr. Leana Wen today issued the following statement in response to a new report by U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy that identifies substance use disorders as one of America’s most pressing public health concerns:

“We commend the Surgeon General for calling out substance use disorders for what they really are: chronic diseases that should be treated with the same level of urgency, compassion, and resources as any other illness.

“This report confirms what we have experienced in Baltimore City for years: addiction comes at grave societal and economic costs. As an emergency physician who has treated thousands of patients with substance use disorders, and as Baltimore’s doctor who sees how addiction ties into every aspect of our city, I am gratified to see the Surgeon General call on leaders, health care providers, and communities to take a stand against stigma and stem the tide of opioid dependence in our country.

“In Baltimore City, I have declared opioid overdose a public health emergency. Since 2015, we have trained nearly 16,000 individuals to save a life with the overdose prevention medication, naloxone. This medication has been used by our residents to save more than 530 lives.

“But, in a city where more people continue to die of overdose than of homicide, we know that we must go beyond the acute emergency of an overdose and address systemic barriers to health. We must work to end the stigma associated with this disease and improve access to desperately-needed treatment.

“As the Surgeon General’s seminal report calls out, illicit drug use costs the U.S. hundreds of billions of dollars every year. We have both a moral and economic imperative to end the opioid epidemic. This is a matter of public health, public safety, and national security.

“It’s time that our state and federal leaders provide the resources needed to save lives.”

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