Recent News

Opioids, a Mass Killer We’re Meeting With a Shrug (New York Times)

About as many Americans are expected to die this year of drug overdoses as died in the Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan wars combined.

For more than 100 years, death rates have been dropping for Americans — but now, because of opioids, death rates are rising again. We as a nation are going backward, and drug overdoses are now the leading cause of death for Americans under 50.

“There’s no question that there’s an epidemic and that this is a national public health emergency,” Dr. Leana Wen, the health commissioner of Baltimore, told me. “The number of people overdosing is skyrocketing, and we have no indication that we’ve reached the peak.”

Read the entire story. 

Opioid Overdoses: Mass Casualty Zones In America NPR’s (1A)

Last year alone, more Americans died from a drug overdose than were lost fighting the war in Vietnam.

Opioids, including pain medicines, are turning some cities into mass casualty zones.

President Trump promised to “dramatically expand access to treatment.”

So what’s been done? And what should we do?


Lenny Bernstein Health and medicine reporter, The Washington Post

Dr. Leana Wen Baltimore City Health Commissioner; emergency physician

Phil Plummer Sheriff, Montgomery County, Ohio

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Study shows opioid-related emergency department visits highest in Maryland (WBAL)

A new nationwide survey on hospital ER visits and inpatient care shows Maryland ranks No. 1 in opioid-related hospital stays.

As communities handle a growing drug crisis, hospitals in Maryland and other places are treating more and more patients with opioid-related problems.

The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality released a study Tuesday showing 1.27 million emergency room visits and inpatient stays in 2014, the latest year numbers were available.

Opioid-related emergency department visits were highest in Maryland, the study found. Nationwide inpatient stays increased 64 percent, with patients ages 25-44 and 45-64 having the highest rates. The data comes from 44 states and Washington, D.C.

Baltimore City Health Commissioner Dr. Leana Wen addressed hospitalizations and overdoses, saying: "It's not surprising. We are seeing a large increase in the number of fatal overdoses here in Baltimore and across Maryland."

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Baltimore City Health Commissioner Deeply Concerned About Health of Vulnerable Populations Affected by Senate Health Care Proposal

BALTIMORE, MD (June 22, 2017)—Baltimore City Health Commissioner Dr. Leana Wen issued the following statement in response to the Senate’s bill to replace the Affordable Care Act released today.

Note from the Commissioner: Our Duty to Protect the Most Vulnerable Populations

In public health, it is our duty to protect the most vulnerable populations, from babies to seniors.

As an expecting mother, I know that prenatal care is essential to a baby’s good health. This week, BCHD hosted a celebration for 11 graduates from the Nursing Family Partnership, a program that supports first-time expecting parents by pairing them with nurses who provide important resources and encouragement. Programs like NFP support women with essential education and empower mothers to build healthy families.

How Medicaid fits into Maryland's opioid crisis (WYPR)

Sixty-four-year old Johnnie Davis has been treating his heroin addiction at the Bon Secours New Hope Treatment Center in West Baltimore for nearly 20 years.

“When I came here, I didn’t have no insurance,” he said. “And if I wasn’t here, I could imagine where my life would have turned because I was known for drugs — selling drugs.”

With no insurance and no job, Davis paid $8 a week for the Methadone program. The clinic later helped him get health coverage through Medicaid. For the last 18 years or so, his treatment has been covered in full.

Maryland is in the midst of an epidemic. More than 1,800 people died last year from overdosing on opioids, a 70-percent increase from the year before, according to data released last week by the state Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.

Medicaid covers roughly 20 percent of Maryland residents, but Medicaid patients make up a larger portion of the Marylanders grappling with addiction.

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Baltimore’s Top Doctor: Why Aren’t We Treating Gun Violence Like A Health Crisis? (Huffington Post)

Dr. Leana Wen, Baltimore’s health commissioner and an emergency room physician, wrote a moving op-ed last week after a gunman opened fire on a congressional baseball practice. In it, she highlighted the daily horror of gun violence the medical community faces.

Wen has long argued that gun violence is a public health issue ― a medical emergency without a prevention plan.

“Medical professionals are trained to stanch bleeding, stitch wounds and patch up broken bodies,” she wrote in her piece for The New York Times, titled “What Bullets Do To Bodies.” “We are good at our jobs; most gunshot victims survive their wounds. But every day, we are plagued by the question of how to prevent these injuries in the first place, when the damage is so extensive from weapons so readily available.”

Wen spoke to HuffPost on Monday about why she believes gun violence is a public health issue, and what Baltimore is doing to prevent it. 

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Baltimore needs more funding for naloxone (WMAR)

The opioid epidemic has reached new levels in Maryland, increasing the need for life-saving medications like naloxone. Baltimore City Health Commissioner Leanna Wen says there isn't enough naloxone to meet the demand. 

She says more than 800 people have been saved in the last two years with overdose reversal medications, but numbers are skyrocketing  driving up the costs of naloxone.

"We are short of funding for it," Wen said. "There's plenty of naloxone if we're able to buy it and the manufacturers have been generous in that we've received donations from some of the manufacturers and we've gotten thousands of units of Narcan from these manufacturers, but we should not depend on the charity of drug companies."

Dr. Wen says the Health Department is depending on the state and federal governments to provide funding for these medications.  

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Baltimore health commissioner: Naloxone in short supply (WBAL-TV)

Baltimore City Health Commissioner Dr. Leana Wen said she needs money to fund naloxone and she needs the state's help.

Health Department website: "Don't die, get naloxone"

"Because of fentanyl, heroin, other prescription opioid drugs that are killing our residents, we need Narcan more than ever, and we don't simply have enough. We don't have the resources to purchase it," Wen said.

Narcan is the brand name for the drug naloxone, which can reverse an opioid overdose.

The Baltimore City Health Department said it has 4,000 doses available through May of next year. If the Health Department does not ration its supply now, it could run out by the end of July.

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Baltimore Forced To Ration Life-Saving Narcan As Opioid Crisis Worsens (WJZ)

It can save lives, but Baltimore’s Health Department is being forced to ration Narcan.

Alex DeMetrick reports, preventing deaths from drug overdose has left the department trapped between increased demand for Narcan, and not enough money to buy what’s needed.

Narcan is the drug that can stop a drug overdose and save a life.

“The problem is that we just don’ have enough money to purchase more Narcan, and as a result we basically have to ration it,” says Baltimore Health Commissioner Dr. Leana Wen.

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