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Md. delegate offers controversial heroin bills

Posted at 6:36 PM, Mar 04, 2016
and last updated 2016-03-04 18:36:39-05
His ideas are being called radical, but Del. Dan Morhaim, D-Baltimore County, says drastic measures are needed to fight the ever growing battle against opioid addiction in this country.
 
He calls his package of four heroin bills a harm-reduction strategy for Maryland. Two of the bills push programs that other countries are successfully using to treat addicts, but are unheard of in the United States. 
 
"It's time to think in a new way," he said.
 
Morhaim said "War on Drugs" has failed.
 
"However well-intentioned, after 50 plus years, I think it's time to declare that it's a policy that is not working," he said. "It was supposed to reduce violence and drug addiction and it's done neither of those." 
 
That's why Morhaim, an emergency room doctor with three decades of experience, is offering up ideas he believes can turn things around. He introduced a bill that calls for setting up safe consumption facilities, where addicts can use drugs in a safe space with access to medical care and resources.
 
"Now, it may sound to folks like this is approving of it, it's not," he said. "But it gets them into a treatment environment, because where do most substance abusers consume their drugs? Where they can't be found. Back alleys, restrooms."
 
Though it sounds shocking, Morhaim said this model has the data to back it up.  
 
"In places in the world that have these kinds of facilities, they've reduced the overdose death rate essentially to zero or almost zero," he said.
 
Another controversial bill would establish a Poly-Morphone-Assisted Treatment Pilot Program. It would provide the most difficult to treat heroin addicts a pharmaceutical grade version of the drug under medical supervision. It's a treatment that studies have shown to be more effective than methadone.
 
"If people like these ideas great, if they don't come up with others," Morhaim said. "But we cannot pat ourselves on the back for what we've been doing because the numbers are clearly gone in the wrong direction. It's time for something different."
 
 Del. Morhaim will get to present both of his bills before the Maryland House Health and Government Operations Committee on Tuesday at 1 p.m.