Recent News

Note from the Commissioner: We need to Save Teen Pregnancy Prevention Programs

While the Affordable Care Act repeal conversations in Congress are on hold, there have been significant funding cuts that threaten the most vulnerable residents in Baltimore and across the U.S.

In July, BCHD received notice from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services that a grant to provide comprehensive teen pregnancy prevention services will be terminated two years early, resulting in a reduction of $3.5 million for funding in Baltimore City.

Abrupt Trump cuts to teen pregnancy program surprise groups (The Hill)

The Trump administration has abruptly cut short grant programs aimed at ending teen pregnancy, leaving the institutions that receive the funds scrambling for answers. 

An office within the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) notified 81 institutions across the U.S. that the five-year grants they were awarded would end two years sooner than planned.

The Teen Pregnancy Prevention (TPP) program, a national program created in 2010 under former President Barack Obama, funds organizations working to reduce and prevent teen pregnancy, with a focus on reaching populations with the greatest need.

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How many more Americans must die before Trump declares a state of emergency? (The Hill)


Earlier this week, President Trump tweeted that he will be holding “a major briefing on the opioid crisis, a major problem for our country.” Many of us in the public health community held out hope that this briefing would include a declaration of a national state of emergency, as recommended by the president’s own Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis.

No such declaration was made. At a time when 142 Americans per day die from overdose, it begs the question: How much worse does this epidemic need to get before it rises to the level of an emergency? Imagine if there were 142 people dying every day from a disease like Ebola or a natural disaster like a hurricane — there would be no question about the necessity of such a declaration.

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Trump and Price Meet to Discuss Opioid Abuse (CQ HEALTHBEAT NEWS)

President Donald Trump will hold off on declaring a national emergency on opioid abuse, the administration's top health official said Tuesday. While an emergency declaration could make it easier to spend money on the crisis, Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price told reporters that the administration thinks it has the resources it needs to address the issue at the moment.

While Price said that Trump considers the situation an emergency and that the formal declaration was still an option, he said the situation "can be addressed without a declaration of an emergency, although all things are on the table for the President."

Critics decry Trump gutting teen pregnancy prevention grants (Washington Times)

The Trump administration is cutting short a batch of Teen Pregnancy Prevention grants, angering big-city health department chiefs who said Wednesday they will no longer be able to figure out what’s working to cut pregnancy rates.

What was supposed to be a five-year grant is being cut to three years, meaning funding will dry up in 2018 — leaving 81 grantees scrambling.

For instance, Seattle and King County schools in Washington wanted to know whether their sexed curriculum, known as FLASH, caused students to delay having sex or whether those who did used condoms or other forms of birth control.

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Big city health officials decry Trump administration’s cuts to teen pregnancy prevention programs (Washington Post)

The federal funding was curtailed last month without explanation and without warning: $214 million for teen pregnancy prevention programs across the country.


The city of Baltimore lost $3.5 million, money that Health Commissioner Leana Wen said had supported classes in anatomy and physiology and counseling in social and emotional issues related to sex for 20,000 teens, plus training for 115 teachers. She worries what the loss of funds will mean for local teen pregnancy rates, which already are twice as high as the state's and much higher than the U.S. average.


“This is a central health issue for thousands of vulnerable teens,” she said. “What is going to be the downstream effect on society?”

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Big city health officials decry Trump administration’s cuts to teen pregnancy prevention programs (Washington Post)

The federal funding was curtailed last month without explanation and without warning: $214 million for teen pregnancy prevention programs across the country.


The city of Baltimore lost $3.5 million, money that Health Commissioner Leana Wen said had supported classes in anatomy and physiology and counseling in social and emotional issues related to sex for 20,000 teens, plus training for 115 teachers. She worries what the loss of funds will mean for local teen pregnancy rates, which already are twice as high as the state's and much higher than the U.S. average.


“This is a central health issue for thousands of vulnerable teens,” she said. “What is going to be the downstream effect on society?”

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Baltimore is Redesigning Access to Healthy Food (EfficientGov)

The Baltimore Health Department is increasing seniors’ and low-income families’ access to healthy food through corner stores and free online shopping.

Baltimore City Health Commissioner Dr. Leana Wen told WYPR Healthwatch that one in four of the city’s senior citizens lives in a food desert. Because food choice “is predicated on privilege,” the city’s health department has been working on two programs that increase senior access to healthy food, the Virtual Supermarket and Healthy Corner Stores programs.

Both programs are expanding in part to a $750,000 grant from the AARP Foundation as well as $150,000 from the Maryland Community Health Resources Commission in 2017.

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Fentanyl-intoxication deaths in Baltimore double in first quarter of 2017 (ABC2)

For the first time ever, the number of fentanyl-related deaths in the state are more than heroin-related ones.
It’s impacting the most people in Baltimore.

In a city that’s in the midst of an epidemic of violence. There’s another crisis – fentanyl.

The numbers, at first glance, are staggering – 123 fentanyl intoxication deaths from January to March of this year in Baltimore, a third of the fentanyl related deaths in the state.

“Even patients have no clue of the substance that they’re using, how toxic it is, and how fatal it is,” Nurse Practitioner Marian Currens said.

Fatalities, she says, that are skyrocketing.

She wears multiple hats on the front lines of the heroin and fentanyl crisis at the University of Maryland Medical Center’s Midtown campus.

The Maryland Health Department reports the number of deaths from fentanyl in the first quarter of the year are the highest they’ve been in 10 years.

It’s a problem impacting decision makers and those who see the epidemic first hand like Currens.

“This past weekend, another patient who was seemingly doing well, had a mishap died – needle in his arm. He left a wife and two young children,” she said.

It’s why Baltimore City Health Commissioner Dr. Leana Wen wants to a holistic approach to the problem, saying a quick fix won’t patch the state’s gaping wound.

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Maryland overdose deaths continued to soar in the first part of the year (Baltimore Sun)

The number of drug-and alcohol-related deaths in Maryland climbed 37 percent in the first three months of this year, with the biggest increase related to people taking opioids laced with the potent additive fentanyl.

There were 550 overdose deaths, including 372 from fentanyl, a cheap and powerful drug coming into the U.S. from overseas that mixed in with heroin, typically without people knowing, according to data released Friday by the Maryland Department of Health. The number of deaths from fentanyl soared 137 percent from 157 deaths during the same period last year.

The numbers were not surprising to public health officials who said they only expect the problem to get worse.

“We have not even come close to reaching the peak of this epidemic,” said Baltimore City Health Commissioner Dr. Leana Wen, who called the numbers “devastating.”

“We just have to double up our efforts,” she said.

Adrienne Breidenstine, a spokeswoman for Behavioral Health System Baltimore, said the organization’s outreach teams continue to see signs of fentanyl, and a second additive called carfentanil, on the streets.The additives are 50 and 100 times more potent than heroin, respectively. It is taking two and sometimes three times the amount of naloxone, a drug that reverses overdoses, to revive people who have taken fentanyl, Breidenstine said.

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