Maryland has new plan to combat opioid overdose deaths

Maryland has unveiled a new plan to tackle the rise of opioid overdose deaths in the state.

The Maryland Stop Overdose Strategy includes $4 million in grants to support local prevention and enforcement efforts, as well as treatment programs.

According to a report released Thursday by Maryland’s Opioid Operational Command Center and Maryland Department of Health, deaths involving drugs and alcohol between January and March 2021 are up 5.7% from the same period last year.

Lt. Gov. Boyd Rutherford addressed the increase during a news conference and said the new initiative was needed because of a spike in deaths during the pandemic.

“For more than a year, we’ve all struggled with these overwhelming circumstances that took us away from family, friends, coworkers and others in our community,” Rutherford said.

“And those struggling with substance use disorders were also disconnected from treatment.”

While opioid related deaths in Maryland declined in 2019, Rutherford said that trend changed during the pandemic.

The strategy also includes townhall meetings to address the issue in the state’s hardest hit areas.

Information gathered during the meetings will be used to help identify gaps in resources and guide funding decisions for expanding services.

The funding for new initiatives will come from the Opioid Restitution Fund, which is supported by settlement or other revenue from opioid litigation, according to the release.

Data from another report released Thursday found that:

  • About 70% of individuals who died from overdoses had an interaction with a Maryland hospital in the four years preceding their death;
  • 60% of people who died from an overdose in Maryland had been prescribed a controlled substance at some point during the same five-year period;
  • Individuals who had received outpatient mental health services in the Public Behavioral Health System within 30 days before their deaths were more likely to receive both mental health and substance use disorder services.

Will Vitka

William Vitka is a Digital Editor and reporter for WTOP.com. He's been in the news industry for over a decade. Before joining WTOP, he worked for CBS News, Stuff Magazine, The New York Post and wrote a variety of books—about a dozen of them, with more to come.

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