News Coverage

Despite Trump promises, White House falling short in opioid fight (CBS News)

BALTIMORE -- As Republicans in Congress and the Trump White House continue to craft a health care bill 30 miles to the south, two people overdose on opioids and die every day in Maryland's largest city.

On a street corner in west Baltimore, the extent of the opioid epidemic that has ravaged large swaths of the country was in stark relief Wednesday against the backdrop of a brick wall emblazoned with the words "No Shoot Zone" in spray paint.

In 95-degree heat, men and women of all ages -- black and white -- filed one by one into a white van and dumped out bundles of used needles. Workers with the Baltimore City Health Department handed out brown paper bags containing clean syringes, cookers, filters and rubber bands in exchange. Those who came to turn in their old equipment were users of heroin, fentanyl and carfentanil, a toxic synthetic opioid.

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As opioid overdoses exact a higher price, communities ponder who should be saved (Washington Post)

MIDDLETOWN, Ohio — The coroner here in the outer suburbs of Cincinnati gets the call almost every day.

Man “slumped over the dining room table.” Woman “found in the garage.” Man “found face down on the kitchen floor of his sister’s residence.” Man “on his bedroom floor — there was a syringe beneath the body.” Coroner Lisa K. Mannix chronicles them all in autopsy reports.

With 96 fatal overdoses in just the first four months of this year, Mannix said the opioid epidemic ravaging western Ohio and scores of other communities along the Appalachian Mountains and the rivers that flow from it continues to worsen. Hospitals are overwhelmed with overdoses, small-town morgues are running out of space for the bodies, and local officials from Kentucky to Maine are struggling to pay for attempting to revive, rehabilitate or bury the victims.

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Maine, other states hit hard by opioids question how to revive addicts (Bangor Daily News)

MIDDLETOWN, Ohio – The coroner here in the outer suburbs of Cincinnati gets the call almost every day.

Man “slumped over the dining room table.” Woman “found in the garage.” Man “found face down on the kitchen floor of his sister’s residence.” Man “on his bedroom floor – there was a syringe beneath the body.” Coroner Lisa K. Mannix chronicles them all in autopsy reports.

With 96 fatal overdoses in just the first four months of this year, Mannix said the opioid epidemic ravaging western Ohio and scores of other communities along the Appalachian Mountains and the rivers that flow from it continues to worsen. Hospitals are overwhelmed with overdoses, small-town morgues are running out space for the bodies, and local officials from Kentucky to Maine are struggling to pay for attempting to revive, rehabilitate or bury the victims.

As their budgets strain, communities have begun questioning how much money and effort they should be spending to deal with overdoses, especially in cases involving people who have taken near-fatal overdoses multiple times. State and local officials say it might be time for “tough love”: pushing soaring medical costs onto drug abusers or even limiting how many times first responders can save an individual’s life.

“It’s not that I don’t want to treat overdose victims, it’s that the city cannot afford to treat overdose victims,” said Middletown Council Member Daniel Picard, noting this industrial town in northern Butler County might have to raise taxes in response to the crisis.

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The U.S. should rethink its entire approach to painkillers and the people addicted to them, panel urges (LA Times)

To reverse a still-spiraling American crisis fueled by prescription narcotic drugs, a panel of experts advising the federal government has recommended sweeping changes in the ways that physicians treat pain, their patients cope with pain, and government and private insurers support the care of people living with chronic pain.

In a comprehensive report on what must be done to staunch the toll of opiates in the United States, a panel of the National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine makes clear that steps needed to prevent the creation of future opiate addicts will drive some people who are now dependent on these medications toward street drugs such as fentanyl and heroin.

“It is therefore ethically imperative to couple a strategy for reducing lawful access to opioids with an investment in treatment for the millions of individuals” already hooked on the painkillers, the panel wrote.

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Wen: Revised Health Care Bill 'Even Worse,' (WBAL)

Baltimore City Health Commissioner Dr. Leana Wen, already against Republican plans to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, issued a statement Thursday calling Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's new rewrite "even worse."

The bill, which faces a do-or-die vote next week, lets insurers sell skimpy policies, but attempts to mollify moderates with billions in funding to fight the opioid epidemic. However, the bill retains Medicaid cuts that moderate Republican senators have fought.

Wen called those cuts and eventual caps on future funding outlays "deep, devastating and dangerous." In Maryland, she said, 1.3 million children, adults and seniors use Medicaid for a range of services, including chronic diseases, prenatal care, prescriptions and nursing home care.

“Gutting Medicaid would force families to choose between basic needs—such as paying for food and rent—and life-saving care," Wen said.

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Baltimore declares Code Red heat advisory for Thursday (WBAL)

The Baltimore City Health Department has declared a Code Red heat advisory Thursday with a heat index around 105 degrees expected.

The National Weather Service has issued a heat advisory for noon to 8 p.m. Thursday for areas east of the Interstate 95 corridor and Maryland's Eastern Shore. A heat advisory means that a period of high temperatures is expected. Temperatures will be in the mid to upper 90s. The combination of high temperatures and high humidity could create a situation in which heat illnesses are possible.

"Heat is a silent killer and a public health threat, particularly for the young, the elderly and those in our city who are the most vulnerable," Baltimore City Health Commissioner Dr. Leana Wen said. "With (Thursday's) extreme heat expected, it is important for all residents to protect against hyperthermia and dehydration. Please be cautious and remember to stay cool and hydrated."

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Baltimore Health Commissioner: Money for opioid crisis helps, but still not enough (Baltimore Business Journal)

Baltimore City Health Department received a $200,000 grant from the Open Society Institute — Baltimore to support efforts to reduce stigma around addiction and increase community outreach.

The grant comes as Gov. Larry Hogan announced Friday that Baltimore City will be allotted over $3 million in new state funding to battle the ongoing opioid crisis.

Of the $22 million in funding announced last week, the state has committed $750,000 to buy 10,000 units, or 20,000 doses, of the opioid reversal drug Naloxone, $830,429 to go to the city's Opioid Intervention Team and $2 million to support the operational costs of an upcoming stabilization center to treat individuals battling addiction and mental health issues.

But Dr. Leana Wen, Baltimore's health commissioner, said the city still needs a lot more. Baltimore City experienced one-third of all of Maryland’s more than 1,800 overdose deaths in 2016. About two people die per day in the city limits, Wen said. She says the most money and resources should continue to be dedicated to fighting the crisis "on the front lines," in the city where the most people are being affected.

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City Will Use OSI Grant For Outreach To Stop Drug Misuse (WBAL Radio)

Baltimore City has received $200,000 dollars to help fight the opioid epidemic.

The grant money from the Open Society Institute will be used to bring in more people who work to educate addicts or users when there is a spike in overdoses in the city.

City health commissioner Dr. Leana Wen tells WBAL News Radio 1090 teams fan out following a spike to let addicts and users know that there may be a bad batch of heroin or other opioid causing deaths.

About one-third of overdoses in Maryland happen in Baltimore, Wen said.

She says the department works with the fire department, community organizations, police and non-profits and when any of those groups see a spike in overdoses, the outreach team can go out and talk to drug addicts and users.

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More Money, Resources Being Used To Battle Baltimore Drug Problem (WJZ)

Pumping money into the battle of Baltimore’s drug problem.

More cash is pouring onto the streets in an effort to combat what’s already been a deadly summer.

Right now, the raging opioid epidemic claims two lives a day, but authorities have a new targeted approach to save drug users.

The health department is trying to hit the brakes on Baltimore’s drug problem. This time, by putting more outreach workers in neighborhoods to warn and educate.

Littered with needles; haunted by a rising body count.

“The heroin is just tearing **** apart,” said one resident.

On the corner of Ramsey and Monroe, one man leaves the health department’s needle exchange van – asking not to be shown on camera or identified – while telling WJZ’s Kimberly Eiten about his fight to stay sober.

“I’ve been in and out of the systems, to rehabs and rehabs,” he said.

He says it worked, but the opioid epidemic rages on around him.

The south Baltimore intersection is just one in the city seeing a spike in overdoses.

Claiming 700 lives last year, and still killing, on average, two people a day this year.

“Baltimore City is at the epicenter of the epidemic,” said Baltimore Health Commissioner Dr. Leana Wen.

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Baltimore City Health Department receives grant to fight opioid epidemic (WMAR)

In the midst of the increasing opioid epidemic, Monday the Baltimore City Health Department (BCHD) announced a $200,000 grant from the Open Society Institute - Baltimore (OSI). 

"Baltimore City is thankful for OSI's contribution that will support the health and well-being of our city," said Mayor Catherine Pugh in a statement. "We all have a role to play in protecting our community from the devastation and trauma caused by addiction and overdose."

The grant will be used to serve drug addicts and community engagement surrounding racial equity and drug policy, as well as funding rapid outreach for overdoses. According to recent statistics, Baltimore City suffered nearly 700 fatal overdoses in 2016. 

"As the opioid epidemic continues to plague our city, state and country, the resources have not kept pace with the need," said Baltimore City Health Commissioner Dr. Leana Wen. "We are extremely grateful that OSI, our long-time partner in the fight against the opioid epidemic, has provided vital funding during this time of a public health crisis."

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