Baltimore City Health Department Hosts Public Meeting of the Work Group on Drug Treatment Access and Neighborhood Relations

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Media Contacts:

Mona Rock: Office: (443) 984-2623, Cell: (410) 375-7763

National and local policy leaders, city officials, and community members convene to discuss drug treatment access in Baltimore City neighborhoods

BALTIMORE, Md. (December 20, 2016)—The Baltimore City Health Department (BCHD) today heard testimony from community members and national policy leaders during an open meeting of the Work Group on Drug Treatment Access and Neighborhood Relations. The session included panel discussions with hospital and university leaders as well as national and local policy experts, including Mayor Catherine E. Pugh, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Mental Health and Substance Use Kana Enomoto, and Deputy Director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse Dr. Wilson Compton.

“As we continue to move Baltimore City forward, we must recognize that physical and emotional health are equally important,” said Mayor Catherine E. Pugh. “These conversations allow our entire community to have a voice, while ensuring the behavioral health needs are met. I am dedicated to working with advocates, treatment providers, and our residents to advance access to care and create healthy neighborhoods.”

The Work Group was created to expand access to evidence-based treatment in the city while maintaining positive relationships with treatment providers and the communities they serve.

“Addiction is a disease, not a moral failing. We must ensure that our residents with substance use disorder have access to the treatment” said Baltimore City Health Commissioner Dr. Leana Wen. “Treatment works and recovery is possible. Until we ensure that patients with addiction can get the care they need, we are merely treading water in combatting the overdose epidemic plaguing our city and nation.”

As a follow-up to the Mayor’s Heroin Taskforce Report, BCHD convened the Work Group—co-chaired by President & CEO of the Greater Baltimore Committee Don Fry, Executive Director of Catholic Charities Bill McCarthy, and Dr. Wen—with three main goals:

  1. Engage partners in conducting a comprehensive, strategic planning process from a city-level perspective, including questions around siting, certifications, and transportation;
  2. Propose community-wide financial and regulatory incentive mechanisms to ensure the construction of neighborhood-friendly drug treatment centers;
  3. Pursue legislative and regulatory efforts to support the first two goals, with the intention of creating a best practice model to address this issue on the state and national levels.

“Baltimore and other communities across the country are reeling from the effects of the opioid crisis,” said Deputy Assistant Secretary for Mental Health and Substance Use Kana Enomoto. “We are working to make essential resources available to promote prevention and deliver treatment and recovery services.”

The recently-convened Work Group held two other open meetings. Previous sessions included panel discussions with providers, community organization representatives, and patients receiving treatment and their families. Additionally, each session had testimony open to the public for residents to share their support and concerns.

The opioid overdose epidemic continues to be a major local and national issue. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly 61 percent of all overdoses nationwide in 2014 involved an opioid. Only 11 percent of Americans experiencing addiction have access to the necessary long-term treatment. In 2015, Baltimore City experienced 393 fatal overdoses.

Baltimore has become a national leader in expanding access to the overdose antidote, naloxone. More than 17,000 residents have been trained to administer this medication, which has been used to save more than 500 lives.

Visit our website for more information about BCHD’s work on substance use disorder and the opioid overdose epidemic.

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