Martin O’Malley announced the formation of the Overdose Prevention Council to counter an increase in the number of overdose deaths in an executive order released today. Under Governor O’Malley’s leadership, the state has added drug and alcohol overdose deaths to theAdministration’s 16 strategic goals and is currently working to drive down overdose deaths by 20 percent by 2015.
"Maryland is more committed than ever to tackling the scourge of substance abuse afflicting so many of our neighbors, friends and family members," said Governor O'Malley. "With this Executive Order, I have tasked key State agencies to better coordinate and create strategies to drive down the number of overdoses in the state, provide needed treatment options, and expand our current outreach strategies. By working together to lift our fellow Marylanders out of addiction, we will ensure that we continue to keep our neighborhoods safe, and protect the health of our loved ones."
To address the epidemic, the Council will advise and assist in establishing a coordinated, statewide effort to reduce the number of fatal and non-fatal overdoses in Maryland. In addition, the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DHMH) released its 2013 Annual Report: Drug and Alcohol-Related Intoxication Deaths in Maryland. The report shows that the number of heroin-related overdose deaths increased by 18 percent in 2013, from 392 in 2012 to 464 in 2013. This increase, coupled with a rise in fentanyl and alcohol-related deaths, contributed to a 7 percent rise in the total number of Maryland fatal overdoses, from 799 in 2012 to 858 in 2013.
In accordance with the Governor’s directive, DHMH is launching a statewide public education campaign to raise awareness about opioid overdoses. The Department is partnering with local health departments to distribute posters, pamphlets, and emergency cards to assist those seeking information on the education and prevention of opioid overdoses. Additionally, DHMH is launching a Facebook page on substance use disorders as a venue to distribute current information and share stories from residents across the state who are dealing with addiction.
“This campaign is aimed at family, friends, and community members,” said Dr. Joshua Sharfstein, Secretary, DHMH. “Being able to identify and quickly respond to an overdose by dialing 9-1-1 and administering naloxone, if trained, will save lives. Calling 2-1-1 is also the most effective way to learn more about treatment resources in your community.”
The Governor also directed the development of several additional initiatives aimed at curbing the opioid overdose epidemic. These initiatives include:
Training and equipping first responders, including law enforcement officers, to administer naloxone to individuals who may have experienced a drug overdose. Naloxone is a life-saving medication that can quickly restore the breathing of a person who has overdosed on heroin or prescription opioid pain medication.
Reviewing the availability of treatment and recovery services in facilities managed by the Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services and considering ways to expand access to treatment.
Additional information on the state’s efforts can be found on: http://governor.maryland.gov/documents/OPCFactSheet.pdf.