News Coverage

Kaiser, Bon Secours join forces on plan to improve health through economic opportunity (Baltimore Sun)

Under normal circumstances they would be competitors, but two Baltimore health systems are combining resources to create economic opportunities to address health disparities in the sickest neighborhoods in the state.

Kaiser Permanente of the Mid-Atlantic States announced Wednesdaythat it is giving Bon Secours Baltimore Health System $1.7 million to build a community resource center that officials hope will spur economic opportunity in communities that are part of the 21223 ZIP code of West Baltimore.

The two health systems think that increasing residents' ability to get jobs and earn a living will eventually improve their health.

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Old Hebrew Orphan Asylum In Baltimore To Be Transformed Into A Drug Rehabilitation Center (Morningside Maryland)

The city Board of Estimates will vote on a 15-year lease at the Hebrew Orphan Asylum at 2700 Rayner Avenue in West Baltimore on Wednesday. Baltimore officials plan to transform the building into a drug rehabilitation center that will serve an estimated 30 patients at a time.

A company, which is owned by Coppin Heights Community Development Corp., will assume the role as the center’s landlord. The nonprofit assumed responsibility of the center, when Coppin State University handed over the reins to them in 2015. The group’s executive director, Gary Rodwell, said the plan was to lease it to a health care provider, which did not happen.

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As new and lethal opioids flood U.S. streets, crime labs race to ID them (STAT News)

ATLANTA — The yellow pills had already killed four before landing in Brian Hargett’s lab last month. They were clearly counterfeit — the letters P-E-R-C-O-C-E-T were as crooked as the dealer who had peddled them throughout central Georgia — but now his chemists had to figure out exactly what they were. And fast. Lives were still at stake; health officials wanted to alert the public about the phony pills. First, though, they had to know what was in them.

At the Georgia Bureau of Investigation’s forensic lab outside Macon, Hargett assigned the tablets to one of his forensic chemists. She threw on her gown and gloves, weighed a pill, and dropped it in a skinny vial to soak in ethanol. Then she ran a test designed to separate and identify each substance in the pill. Two synthetic opioids showed up — including one never before seen in Georgia.

Their best guess: the little-known, and lethal, compound known as cyclopropyl.

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As the Drug That Reverses Opioid Overdoses Gets More Expensive, Can Cities Afford It? (Governing)

Just a few years ago, naloxone was a relatively obscure drug that few people outside of the medical community knew about. Fast forward to today, and most Americans have heard of it -- even if they can't recall its name.

Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe says he always carries it on him. New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez signed a law this year that requires all fire and police departments to keep it in stock. A few cities now let people buy it at the pharmacy without a prescription.

Naloxone is the life-saving antidote to an opioid overdose, reversing symptoms like respiratory failure and unconsciousness. In July 2016, the North Carolina Harm Reduction Coalition estimated that 38 states have at least one police department requiring officers to carry it. But with no end to the opioid epidemic in sight and the price of naloxone on the rise, public officials are starting to worry that they won’t be able to afford it much longer.

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In just one year, nearly 1.3 million Americans needed hospital care for opioid-related issue (Washington Post)

The coast-to-coast opioid epidemic is swamping hospitals, with recently published government data showing 1.27 million emergency room visits or inpatient stays for opioid-related issues in a single year.

The 2014 numbers, the latest available for every state and the District of Columbia, reflect a 64 percent increase for inpatient care and a 99 percent jump for emergency room treatment compared to figures from 2005. Their trajectory likely will keep climbing if the epidemic continues unabated.

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Is America Talking About Opioids the Wrong Way? (Governing)

The crowd was overflowing at a nondescript convention center in suburban Maryland, a few miles from the Baltimore airport. The event had originally been capped at 350, but organizers had to make plans for an overflow room, seating an additional 150 people. Despite that, registration still maxed out days before the conference took place. Any event that brings together three regional leaders in the same room -- in this case, Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe and Washington, D.C., Mayor Muriel Bowser -- is noteworthy. But that’s not why the overcapacity crowd had shown up on an unseasonably chilly day in May. It’s because they were all there to discuss the opioid epidemic.

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City Health Commissioner Says Health Law Shouldn’t Be Replaced (WBAL)

Baltimore City Health Commissioner Dr. Leana Wen joined both WBAL News Now with Bryan Nehman and The C4 Show on Wednesday morning.

Wen said  the Affordable Care Act  has been beneficial to the city, why young people should be buying health care, and how the House or Senate health care plan would impact the country.

She also touched on the opioid crisis.

While speaking to C4, she offered an explanation as to why she opposes any plan to replace the current ACA. 

"For me, it's not a political strategy, it's not a talking point," Wen said. "It's about peoples' lives and I've seen exactly what happens when people go without access to health care. I strongly believe that all Americans need to have a baseline of basic health services that we should be getting."

 Read the entire story.

Healthwatch with Dr. Leana Wen: The Senate Healthcare Bill; Baltimore's Opioid Crisis (WYPR)

The Senate version of healthcare legislation is the topic on most people’s minds on Capitol Hill. Senate leadership wants to replace the Affordable Care Act with The Better Care Reconciliation Act.  As of this moment, passage of the Senate health care bill appears somewhat in doubt. Yesterday’s CBO score, and a chorus of critics, say the Senate bill will cause at least 15 million Americans to lose their health insurance by next year. It remains to be seen what effect passing the bill would have on patients, doctors, hospitals, insurers, and public health agencies, although there are plenty of people from each of those groups who have criticized McConnell’s “discussion draft” of the bill.

On today’s edition of Healthwatch, our monthly conversation about health and well-being in Baltimore with Baltimore City Health Commissioner, Dr. Leana Wen, we’ll talk about the impact the Senate bill might have on our city’s most vulnerable populations, and the ongoing fight to quell the growing opioid epidemic. 

 Listen to the entire story. 

Baltimore spending panel expected to approve lease for drug treatment center (Baltimore Sun)

Baltimore officials are expected to approve a 15-year lease at the old Hebrew Orphan Asylum in West Baltimore, where they plan to open a center to help people addicted to heroin and other drugs so they're not taking up emergency room beds.

The stabilization or sobering center at 2700 Rayner Ave. in Mosher would serve around 30 patients at a time, helping them sober up safely and then connecting them with long-term drug treatment and other social services.

The city Board of Estimates, controlled by Mayor Catherine Pugh, is scheduled to vote on the lease agreement Wednesday morning.

Dr. Leana Wen, Baltimore's health commissioner, said the goal is to lighten the load hospitals face from the city's ongoing drug abuse and overdose death crisis. And, she said, to be "treating individuals that have a substance use disorder with the same urgency and compassion as we would any other disease."

Read the entire article. 

Health Care Bill Could Boot People With Addiction Out of Treatment (TIME)

The health care bill released by Senate Republicans on Thursday is stoking outrage among mental health and addiction groups for its proposed steep cuts to Medicaid, the government’s largest health insurance program. Medicaid is the single largest payer for mental health services in the United States and provides coverage for millions of Americans with mental health or substance abuse disorders.

The proposed change is especially painful for these organizations because they saw an expansion of mental health coverage under the Affordable Care Act. After it was enacted, an estimated 2.8 million Americans with substance use disorders and 1.3 million with serious mental illness gained health insurance coverage for the first time under Medicaid expansion. In some states, Medicaid programs cover more than 40% of prescriptions of buprenorphine, a drug that treats opioid addiction.

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