Maryland declares state of emergency over heroin epidemic

The first-term Republican signed an executive order calling for the state of emergency, an instrument many jurisdictions use to coordinate anti-opioid and heroin strategies. Hogan said heroin and opioid deaths have doubled in the past year, while heroin use has tripled nationwide.

"The reality is that this threat is rapidly escalating", Hogan said, appearing with Lt. Gov. Boyd Rutherford and a large contingent of state officials at the command center of the Maryland Emergency Management Agency outside Baltimore.

States of emergency are usually associated with weather events.

"We must cut through the red tape, so that we are empowering the important work being done in our many state agencies and at the local level all across our state", Hogan said.

He and others could offer few specifics. Former MEMA Director Clay Stamp, who will lead the emergency coordination around the state, said it's all about saving lives. "It affects all ages and demographics", said Hogan.

That bodes well for this area's law enforcement and health and welfare services, as the lines of communication between local and state authorities should be open and direct. "Clear, specific goals" would be announced soon, he said. Shortly after taking office, he formed a task force headed by Rutherford that has made almost three dozen recommendations on drug policy.

And a separate bill would authorize the collection and review of nonfatal overdose data to make it easier for people to fill prescriptions for naloxone, a drug that can counteract the effects of an opioid overdose. He discussed Maryland's recent efforts to combat opioid addiction and announced an additional $50 million in funding to support heroin prevention, treatment and enforcement efforts. He did not say where the money would come from.

For some, Hogan's action is welcomed but much too late in its arrival. "Ten million new dollars is a drop in the bucket".

One idea the governor categorically rejected Wednesday: a proposal by Del. Last year, Virginia followed suit, which allowed naloxone to be made available over-the-counter.

"I think it's absolutely insane".

In Maryland, by the third quarter of 2016, it's estimated that 918 deaths were attributable to heroin; 738 deaths to fentanyl, a powerful, highly addictive opioid typically only used in surgery; and 317 to prescription opioids (some deaths may have involved a combination of drugs).

  • Larry Hoffman