Baltimore City Health Commissioner Signs New Standing Order for Opioid Overdose Reversal Medication

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

New legislation allows residents to receive naloxone without having to complete unnecessary paperwork

BALTIMORE, MD (June 1, 2017) — Baltimore City Health Commissioner Dr. Leana Wen today signed a new standing order, which effectively makes naloxone, the opioid overdose reversal medication, available over-the-counter for Baltimore City residents.

Today, a new bipartisan law, known as the Heroin and Opioid Prevention Effort or HOPE Act (SB967/HB1329), goes into effect that removes the previously-required training to receive a naloxone prescription. While the training itself is brief, the mandate created unnecessary paperwork that inhibited outreach workers’ ability to reach more residents with the life-saving medication.

“I am proud of the work that the Health Department and our partners across the city have done to save lives from overdose,” said Mayor Catherine E. Pugh. “The HOPE Act will allow more people in Baltimore and across Maryland to have access to life-saving medications.”

An estimated 20,000 individuals in Baltimore use heroin and many thousands more misuse prescription opioids. Preliminary data shows that there were 481 fatal overdoses from January through September 2016 and that deaths related to fentanyl, an opioid that is 50 to 100 times more powerful than morphine, increased nearly 20-fold in recent years.

“In this time of public health emergency, we need every tool and must eliminate every barrier to save lives from overdose. That’s why we advocated for and supported this year’s bipartisan HOPE Act that treats addiction as the disease that it is,” said Dr. Wen. “Naloxone is safe, effective, and easy to use. We must enable everyone to carry it and save lives.”

Following her appointment in January 2015, Dr. Wen declared opioid overdose a public health emergency and implemented a citywide plan to prevent overdose, increase access to treatment, and improve education for patients and providers. A key component of this plan is the expansion of access to naloxone.

In October 2015, Baltimore City became the first jurisdiction in Maryland to issue a standing order for naloxone, a blanket prescription enabling Dr. Wen to prescribe naloxone for all of Baltimore City’s 620,000 residents. The new standing order issued today is an update to reflect provisions included in the HOPE Act that remove burdensome training requirements.

Since 2015, more than 23,000 Baltimoreans have been trained to use naloxone. Those residents have in turn saved more than 800 lives from overdose.

“We know that naloxone alone is not the answer. We must improve access to treatment to allow those suffering from the disease of addiction a chance to enter recovery and lead healthy lives,” said Dr. Wen. “But if we do not save a life today, there is no chance for a better tomorrow. The opioid epidemic is claiming the lives of thousands of fellow Marylanders every year. Expanding access to naloxone is one concrete step we can and must take.”

Learn more about how to use naloxone to reverse an opioid overdose at: http://dontdie.org.

More information about Baltimore City’s response to the overdose epidemic can be found at: http://health.baltimorecity.gov/programs/substance-abuse.

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