Maryland could get $10 million to get opioid addicts treatment

Posted at 6:38 PM, Jan 17, 2017
and last updated 2017-01-17 18:45:13-05

It's a problem across the state, but the largest spike in overdose deaths happened in Baltimore City.

Heroin deaths are up nearly 72 percent for the first nine months of 2016, and fentanyl-related overdoses jumped from 192 in the first nine months of 2015 to 738 for the same time in 2016.

RELATED: Fentanyl: The opioid crisis you never heard of

The Feds were in Baltimore Tuesday to talk about the opioid epidemic.

"A big part of this has been the over-prescribing of prescription pain medications, has dramatically contributed to the opioid overdose deaths,” said the director of National Drug Control Policy at the White House, Michael Botticelli. “And over the past couple years we have finally begun to see a decrease in the number of opioids being prescribed."

Forty-nine states, including Maryland, now have prescription drug monitoring programs. However, tighter restrictions on pain pills shifted the demand to illegal drugs like heroin. Add that to addicts not getting effective treatment for their substance abuse problems, and the epidemic has gotten worse.

"We know that nationwide, only one in ten people with a substance abuse disorder is getting the treatment that they need,” said Baltimore City Health commissioner Dr. Leana Wen. “Which is not acceptable for any other illness, we would never accept that for diabetes or cancer, to say that only one in ten people with these diseases are able to get treatment."

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Last month, President Barrack Obama signed the 21st Century Cures Act, it includes $1 billion to fight opioid abuse and get addicts help. The money will be doled out to states over two years.

"Maryland is in line to receive $10 million of that money to make sure that we're closing that enormous treatment gap that we have in the United States," Botticelli said. "I wish we had gotten the resources sooner to be able to really respond to people who needed treatment when they could get it."

Wen says she plans to work with the state to try and bring some of those funds to charm city.

"We hope that that money coming to Maryland will be distributed to areas of greatest need, those areas that are the most vulnerable, the areas that have been the most impacted by the opioid epidemic, including here in Baltimore city,” she said.

The effort right now in DC to un-do the Affordable Care Act will also impact the opioid fight.  All insurance plans sold on the healthcare exchange must include substance abuse coverage.  Repealing the law without replacing it would cut-off addiction treatment to more than 60 million Americans.

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