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

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

BALTIMORE, Md. (December 29, 2016)— Today, Baltimore City Health Commissioner Dr. Leana Wen issued the following statement in response to new data showing an increase in fatal overdoses statewide. Preliminary data show that there were 481 fatal overdoses in Baltimore City from January through September 2016, compared to 286 during the same time period last year. The number of people who died from overdoses relating to fentanyl has increased from 75 to 267—an 18-fold increase since 2013.

“My heart goes out to the family, friends, and loved ones of those who lost their lives to overdose. While these statistics are shocking, we at the Baltimore City Health Department remain resolute in our commitment to combatting the opioid epidemic in Baltimore.

“Addiction is a disease—not a moral failing—and must be addressed as any other chronic disease. We must both save a life today with acute treatments, like the opioid overdose reversal medication naloxone, while also ensuring access to evidence-based treatment.

“In Baltimore, we have continued to improve access to naloxone – the opioid overdose antidote. Since issuing a blanket prescription for the medication so that all 620,000 residents have the power to save a life, we have trained over 17,000 Baltimoreans to administer naloxone. These every day citizens have saved more than 531 lives. Meanwhile, we have continued to increase education and awareness citywide to reduce stigma about the disease of addition as we encourage prevention and treatment.

“Unfortunately, only 1 in 10 patients nationwide get access to long-term treatment. This is unscientific, unethical, and unacceptable. Until we provide patients with the evidence-based addiction the care they need, we can only tread water in our efforts to combat the overdose epidemic plaguing our city and our nation.

“That is why we recently convened the neighborhood work group to ensure access to evidence-based drug treatment while maintaining positive relationships among treatment providers and the communities they serve. Through the citywide Fentanyl Task Force, we are collaborate with more than two dozen agencies to respond to overdoses from this incredibly deadly opioid in real-time.

“However, we recognize that our work is far from over and that there is much more to do. Long-term treatment for substance use disorder and addiction remains underfunded. Policy decisions continued to be made on stigma instead of science. We would not accept this for any other disease, so our work continues to better serve those facing this devastating and tragic illness.

“I look forward to working with partners across the city, state, and federal government to ensure that resources are targeted to those communities in greatest need.”

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