New federal effort to address drug abuse

Posted at 11:15 AM, May 17, 2016
and last updated 2016-05-17 11:51:41-04

Baltimore has the highest per capita heroin addiction rate in the country, according to the DEA.

With those skyrocketing numbers, more people are trying to do more to combat the epidemic.

Standing side by side with Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, Baltimore City Health Commissioner Dr. Leana Wen, and three congressmen for a press conference Monday morning was Darrell Hodge.

Years ago when he was fighting heroin addiction, he wasn't sure he would ever be in that position.

"I always wanted to. I thought I could, but I had my doubts," Hodge told ABC2.

Related: Harford County responding to heroin fatalities, three more over the weekend

Today he is working as a peer recovery specialist for REACH Health Services, advocating for people seeking treatment.

During his turn at the podium, Hodge shared something he knows first hand.

"The people in crisis, they need help right away," he said.

That is just one concern addressed by a package of 17 bills the house of representatives passed last week.

The bills address the national opioid abuse and overdose epidemic.

"The science is clear that addiction recovery requires medication assisted treatment, psychosocial support and wrap around services and yet nationwide, only 11 percent of patients with addiction can get the treatment that they need.  Imagine if we were to say that only one of ten patients with cancer can get chemotherapy. My patients will come to me in the ER seeking add treatment and I tell them that they must wait days, weeks or even months to get the needed treatment," Dr. Wen said.

Advocates said the legislation is just the first step and they won't stop, but they also say they need both sides to come together to make the laws effective.

"You can pass all the legislation you want, but if you don't have any money or you don't have enough money, you're just basically going through a feel good exercise and that's not good enough for the people who come in this clinic everyday," Congressman Elijah Cummings said.

"While this package that we passed last week and we hope the Senate will come together around it is a good first step, we've got to bring significant resources," Representative John Sarbanes said.

Sarbanes has said the key is investing more federal resources to expand treatment programs that work.

The House of Representatives passed the following bills last week:

  • H.R. 5046, Comprehensive Opioid Abuse Reduction Act
  • H.R. 4641, Establishing An Inter-Agency Task Force on Best Practices for Pain Management
  • H.R. 4063, Jason Simcakoski PROMISE Act,
  • H.R. 4985, Kingpin Designation Improvement Act
  • H.R. 5048, Good Samaritan Assessment Act
  • H.R. 5052, Opioid Program Evaluation (OPEN) Act
  • H.R. 4843, Improving Safe Care for the Prevention of Infant Abuse and Neglect Act
  • H.R. 4978, Nurturing and Supporting Healthy Babies Act
  • H.R. 3680, Co-Prescribing to Reduce Overdoses Act
  • H.R. 3691, Improving Treatment for Pregnant and Postpartum Women Act
  • H.R. 1818, Veteran Emergency Medical Technician Support Act
  • H.R. 4969, John Thomas Decker Act
  • H.R. 4586, Lali's Law
  • H.R. 4599, Reducing Unused Medications Act
  • H.R. 4976, Opioid Review Modernization Act
  • H.R. 4982, Examining Opioid Treatment Infrastructure Act
  • H.R. 4981, Opioid Use Disorder Treatment Expansion and Modernization Act

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