MHA's Friday Update Messages

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Opioid Response Gaining Steam

March 23, 2018 By: Bob Atlas

Earlier this month, Gov. Larry Hogan made his way to the nation’s capital to testify before Congress for the first time in his nearly four years leading Maryland. His purpose was singular: to ask for help in combating a deadly crisis that has afflicted our state for years.

“I urge you and your colleagues to make increased funding for the opioid crisis a top priority,” Hogan told members of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee. “We simply can’t stop it without the federal government stepping up.”

Hogan’s pleas were amplified by U.S. Senator Ben Cardin, who earlier this week led a discussion on opioid abuse attended by stakeholders statewide, intended to advance strategies that could help mitigate Maryland’s crisis. The event was hosted by Anne Arundel Medical Center. I had the opportunity to join that discussion. Two things are abundantly clear:

  • All stakeholders – hospitals, community-based providers, law enforcement, educators, families, communities – will need to work in harmony to resolve this crisis
  • Hospitals over the past couple of years have made strong progress to build a foundation for long-term solutions, though we cannot rest

As but one component of what will ultimately be a multifaceted response to the crisis, hospitals have begun to implement several crucial strategies related to their discharge protocols. Among hospitals:

  • 100 percent have committed to expanding access to naloxone, a life-saving intervention that helps remove the stigma associated with overdose
  • 68 percent utilize universal substance use disorder screenings with another 13 percent employing screenings with cause
  • 63 percent employ facilitated referrals to treatment facilities
  • 65 percent incorporate peer recovery specialists into the care process

This is in addition to strict opioid prescribing guidelines that hospitals adopted two years ago and correlate with a marked decrease in such prescriptions from health providers, according to Maryland Department of Health data.

Also, a bill to create a multi-million dollar grant program to support community-based treatment for behavioral health services is likely to pass in the final weeks of the General Assembly’s legislative session.

Even with the strong work you’ve been doing to mitigate the opioid epidemic, true progress will take the full commitment of everyone to help our state recover. If you haven’t already, please make use of MHA’s collection of opioid resources for hospitals and reach out to our team with any ideas, information or questions.