Maryland Governor Declares 'State of Emergency' Over Opioid Epidemic

By William Georgiades 03/06/17

Gov. Hogan is committing an additional $50 million for treatment services, law enforcement and to raise awareness about the crisis.

Governor Hogan declaring the public health emergency.
Photo via YouTube

Last week, Maryland Governor Larry Hogan signed an executive order declaring a state of emergency in response to the opioid, heroin and fentanyl epidemic in his state.

According to the Washington Post, the Republican governor is now committing an additional $50 million over the next five years to combat the crisis. 

“We need to treat this crisis the exact same way we treat any other state emergency,” Hogan stated at a news conference with state officials at the Maryland Emergency Management Agency. “As this crisis evolves, so must our response to it.”

The executive order was part of a promise that Hogan made back in December of 2014 at a Republican convention. "Every state on the East Coast has declared a state of emergency except Maryland — and Maryland has the worst problem,” Hogan told reporters.  

In December 2016, the state health department reported that in the first three quarters of 2016 there were 1,468 overdose deaths in Maryland, a 62% increase over the same period in 2015, and the sixth year in a row that the number has risen.

Hogan had previously signed an executive order to create a Heroin and Opioid Emergency Task Force, and to address the crisis at regional and national levels, signing agreements with Virginia and Washington D.C. to coordinate responses.

In terms of practical work to combat the problem, the legislature has advanced legislation to require that all prescriptions be entered into a statewide database to track potential abuse and alert healthcare providers. Pharmacists have also been authorized to dispense naloxone to those who know how to use the overdose-reversal medication.

The announcement comes on the heels of a recommendation by researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Health that Baltimore should open two safe injection sites—an option that has been successful in 66 cities worldwide.

Democratic legislator Dan Morhaim then proposed legislation to open safe sites for heroin users. Hogan rejected the proposal, calling it “absolutely insane,” and questioned Morhaim’s involvement in a prospective medical marijuana dispensary.

Last Thursday, Governor Hogan debuted a PSA on his Facebook page featuring House of Cards actor Michael Kelly. In the 30-second public service announcement, Hogan and Kelly ask parents to talk to their kids about opioid and heroin addiction. 

Check out the PSA below:

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William Georgiades is a former editor at EsquireBlack Book, the New York Post and the Grapevine and has written for several publications including New York MagazineVanity Fair, the London Times and GQ. He has been the features editor at The Fix since 2013. You can find him on Linkedin.