News Coverage

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?”

Read the entire story.

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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Bad Batch App Notifies Community of Heroin Overdoses (Baltimore Magazine)

A local tech entrepreneur is trying to curb the massive spike in deaths related to the opioid epidemic one text at a time.

The Bad Batch Alert app is made for heroin addicts and their loved ones and essentially notifies them of any bad batches of opioids in the area. When an abnormal amount of overdoses in a neighborhood is detected, a text is sent out alerting users that a bad batch is in the area.

“It’s similar to an Amber Alert,” says creator Mike LeGrand, who started up Code In Schools in order to spread computer science education around Baltimore.

With the help of six teens and one mentor from that program, they started up Bad Batch Alert in October. He says, “Loved ones might use it, because they often care more about the people in the grips of addiction, than the people themselves do.”

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New text service, Bad Batch Alert, hopes to help with addiction (WMAR)

The Baltimore City Health Department is fighting the opioid epidemic any way they can. Now they're using cell phones.

The health department gave Code in the Schools a grant for $4,500, under their TECHealth program, to create Bad Batch Alert.

"I think a lot of people we know have been affected by this problem," Michael LeGrand works with Baltimore City Public School students at Code in the Schools writing the language that makes the service work.

He personally has been affected by the opioid epidemic. His childhood friend Rachel Vicary was smart. She had a degree in Computer Science, and is a chess whiz. She was known in her New York borough as the local mechanic fixing motorcycles.

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Are drug companies 'profiteering' off life-saving heroin overdose medicine? (Penn Live)

The greatest outrage is directed at Evzio, a high-tech dispenser which "talks" a novice through reversing an overdose.

It cost $690 when it came out in 2014. Now the list price is $4,500 -- an increase of more than 500 percent.

Evzio delivers a dose of naloxone, which blocks the effects of heroin and opioid painkillers, jumpstarting the heart rate and breathing of someone who overdosed.

Cheaper configurations of naloxone exist. It's a generic drug that's been around since the early 1970s.

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