Drug Czar Michael Botticelli Praises Baltimore's Efforts to Combat Opioid Epidemic

By McCarton Ackerman 01/20/17

The outgoing drug czar also spoke about the need to expand, rather than scale back, treatment efforts.

Michael Botticelli
Photo via YouTube

U.S. drug czar Michael Botticelli will have his tenure come to a close today, but before exiting he made it a point to praise the city of Baltimore for its efforts toward curbing addiction.

According to the Baltimore Sun, Botticelli visited the city's health department on Tuesday (Jan. 17), to praise local officials for their efforts in combating the opioid epidemic. Among the initiatives the city has introduced are a prescription drug monitoring program, expansion of addiction treatment, drug disposal programs, and public training on how to use naloxone to reverse drug overdoses.

Botticelli also stressed the importance of not scaling back insurance coverage for addiction treatment. He noted that “we are losing too many Americans on a daily basis,” and that treatment efforts need to be intensified rather than scaled back. He said that Maryland could potentially access $10 million of the $1 billion set aside for opioid addiction in the 21st Century Cures Act signed into law in December.

Drug and alcohol-related overdoses have doubled in Maryland since 2010. The numbers reached 1,259 in 2015, but already reached 1,468 in the first nine months of 2016.

Sadly, drugs also remain the most common reason why Maryland inmates wind up in prison. A joint study released last year by the Pew Charitable Trust and the Crime and Justice Institute found that possession of drugs with intent to distribute was the primary charge for incoming inmates between 2005-2014.

To help combat the issue of addiction among the incarcerated, eight Maryland county jails began administering Vivitrol to inmates last year. Access to the drug was provided through a $50,000 grant by Gov. Larry Hogan, while funding was provided through the state’s new Medication-Assisted Treatment Program. Vivitrol is a monthly shot that blocks the effects of opioid drugs, which costs anywhere from $800 to $1,500 per shot when paid for out of pocket.

A study released last year by the Department of Mental Health and Mental Hygiene’s Vital Statistics Administration found that addicted inmates are at a greater risk of overdosing upon being released from jail, further highlighting the importance of Vivitrol access. The Frederick County Adult Detention Center, one of the eight jails administering the drug, reported that 65% of inmates in their Project 103 program sought help from opioid or heroin dependency.

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McCarton Ackerman is a freelance writer and editor living in Portland, Oregon. He has been a contributor for The Fix since October 2011, writing on a wide range of topics ranging from medical marijuana in Colorado to the world's sexiest drug smugglers. Follow him on Linkedin and Twitter.