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Some Signs of Hope in Annual Report on Maryland's Opioid Problem

May 23, 2019

Local initiatives tracked by Maryland's Opioid Operational Command Center are resulting in numerous gains in the state's effort to combat the opioid epidemic, with treatment and recovery progress that includes expanded access to care post-incarceration and greater involvement from peer recovery specialists.

These are among the center's findings in its 2018 annual report released this month, a document that includes preliminary data suggesting a decline in heroin- and prescription opioid-related deaths in the state for the second consecutive year. Fentanyl-related deaths in the state increased by 17.1% in 2018, however, and fentanyl and its analogs now account for just over 88% of all opioid-related deaths in Maryland. Still, the report offers signs that the opioid crisis in the state is leveling off.

“The Opioid Operational Command Center monitors more than 200 performance measures pertaining to programs and best practices, and, as you will see in this report, virtually all of those measures are moving in a positive direction,” command center executive director Steve Schuh said in a news release this month.

Schuh will offer welcoming remarks and an overview of the command center's activity on the opening day of the Aug. 15-18 National Conference on Addiction Disorders (NCAD East) in Baltimore.

Among its findings, the report states that the number of local jurisdictions that have implemented a coordinated approach to referral for treatment upon release from a correctional facility has increased from 10 to 22 (out of a total of 24 jurisdictions) since March 2017, when a state of emergency was declared in Maryland over the opioid problem. In the same period, the number of jurisdictions that have implemented peer recovery specialists in at least one of a number of settings ranging from emergency departments to schools to street outreach has increased from 18 to all 24.

Here are some other highlights of the annual report's findings:

  • There were 2,385 unintentional intoxication deaths in Maryland in 2018, with opioids accounting for 88.6% of these deaths. The total number of deaths increased by 4.5% over the 2017 total.

  • The highest total number of opioid-related deaths was seen in the city of Baltimore and in Baltimore and Anne Arundel counties. However, just over half of the 24 local jurisdictions saw a decrease in opioid-related deaths last year.

  • Cocaine-related deaths in the state continue to rise significantly, with a 27.9% increase to a total of 784 deaths in 2018. Nearly 9 in 10 cocaine-related deaths in the state last year were related to the presence of fentanyl.

Join clinicians and executives at NCAD East, Aug. 15-18 in Baltimore, and work to improve and refine patient care as well as develop sustainable and successful treatment organizations. Visit for more information.

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