Baltimore City Overdose Prevention and Response Information
The Baltimore City Health Department is dedicated to decreasing the number of opioid-related overdose deaths in Baltimore City. Opioid overdose is a major public health crisis. In 2014, 303 people died of drug and alcohol overdoses, a 19% increase from 2013. Of those who died of overdose in 2014, 192 people died as a result of heroin intoxication. This is more than the number of people who died of homicide in our city. Preventing overdose deaths is a top public health priority—it literally will save hundreds of our citizens every year.
Naloxone: A Life Saving Drug
Naloxone (known by the brand name Narcan) is a prescription medicine that can reverse an opioid-related overdose by quickly restoring breathing and consciousness. The medication can be easily administered by nasal spray or injection and lasts 30-90 minutes. Available only by prescription, naloxone has few side effects, is not addictive, cannot get a person high, and is safe for children and pregnant women. After receiving naloxone, someone will experience symptoms associated with withdrawal (e.g. discomfort, nausea, vomiting, etc.). Naloxone will have no effect on someone who does not have opioids in his or her system. Learn more about overdose education and naloxone distribution.
The Overdose Response Program (ORP)
The state Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DHMH) oversees the ORP, which authorizes private or public entities to conduct educational training programs. These programs train individuals to recognize and respond to opioid-related overdoses and certify them to safely administer naloxone. Authorized entities issue certificates to successfully-trained individuals and may have a physician or nurse practitioner on site to write prescriptions to certificate holders and dispense naloxone. Learn more on the DHMH website.
Baltimore City Health Department Staying Alive Program
The Baltimore City Health Department Staying Alive Program provides ORP-certified educational training programs to Baltimore City residents. Since 2004, Staying Alive has taught more than 17,500 injection drug users, drug treatment clients and providers, inmates, and corrections officers about how to prevent drug overdoses. More than 230 reversals (lives saved) have been documented. Learn more on the Staying Alive program page.
Along with Staying Alive, four other organizations are authorized to conduct ORP training and certification in Baltimore City: Behavioral Health System Baltimore, Baltimore Student Harm Reduction Coalition, Baltimore Police Department, and Health Care for the Homeless. The Baltimore City Health Department is working closely with these organizations and Staying Alive to expand access to overdose response training and naloxone to all community members.
Public Overdose Response Trainings
Baltimore City community members are encouraged to attend public trainings to learn how to recognize and respond to an opioid overdose. These trainings are designed for anyone who thinks they may be near someone experiencing an overdose. Those who complete the training will receive a certificate, a prescription for naloxone, and a free kit containing naloxone. To find a training near you, please visit our Training Calendar and look for events titled “Opioid Overdose Public Training.”
If you are interested in organizing a public training in your community, please contact Evan Behrle.
Levels of Care for Baltimore City Hospitals Responding to the Opioid Epidemic
On April 30, 2018, Mayor Catherine E. Pugh and Baltimore City Health Commissioner Dr. Leana Wen joined the leadership of all 11 Baltimore City hospitals to announce a new initiative focused on implementing and recognizing best practices for responding to the opioid epidemic within the City’s hospitals. The Levels of Care for Baltimore City Hospitals Responding to the Opioid Epidemic involves identifying best practices for responding to the opioid epidemic and publicly recognizing those hospitals that successfully implement them. Developed with active input from hospitals, the levels will be scored on numerous evidence-based criteria, such as hospitals’ ability to provide treatment to patients who screen positive for addiction, distribute naloxone to patients, connect patients with peers or other support services, and ensure physicians are prescribing opioids judiciously. The Health Department is now seeking public comment for this initiative. Learn more.
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