Governor O’Malley announces new overdose data and state response, including a Maryland State Police overdose treatment training initiative

ANNAPOLIS, MD (July 24, 2014) – Governor Martin O’Malley today unveiled new data on overdose deaths occurring in the first half of 2014. Under Governor O’Malley’s leadership, the state has committed to drive down overdose deaths by 20 percent by 2015 and has added drug and alcohol overdose deaths to the Administration’s 16 strategic goals.

Overdose deaths represent one of the most compelling public health challenges facing the nation. Locally, here in Maryland, there were more overdose deaths than traffic fatalities in 2013. As one of the strategies to address the overdose epidemic in Maryland, Governor O’Malley signed an executive order establishing the Overdose Prevention Council just last month. The Council will advise and assist in establishing an unprecedented effort among multiple State agencies to reduce the number of fatal and non-fatal overdoses in Maryland.

“The Overdose Council represents a new level of coordination, data collection, analysis, and information sharing among State agencies. Together, as One Maryland, we’re breaking down silos to collect up-to-date statistics, better target resources and empower citizens to combat this epidemic and save lives,” said Governor O’Malley. “With this data guiding us, we will continue to fight to keep Maryland families and communities safe while also developing innovative strategies to reduce the number of overdose deaths in Maryland.”

The Department of Health and Mental Hygiene released a report that contains updated overdose intoxication data for the first quarter of 2014 and two data briefs. The report and data briefs shows that from January to March 2014 there were 252 total overdose deaths, a 33 percent increase from the same time last year. The increase is largely driven by a rise in the number of deaths related to fentanyl-laced heroin since last fall, which coincides with trends reported by states up and down the East Coast. The data briefs also show an increase in heroin-related emergency department visits from 2008 to 2013.

To combat the rise of opioid overdoses, the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene and Maryland State Police have launched a new initiative to train and equip Maryland State Troopers with naloxone, a life-saving medication that can safely and effectively reverse opioid overdoses. As of July 1, 2014, the State Police has collaborated with local health officers in Cecil County, Allegany County, and Somerset County to participate in the effort where troopers, along with county and municipal police officers, will be trained and equipped with Naloxone.

“Our goal is to train and equip each of our patrol troopers with this life saving medication,” Maryland State Police Superintendent Colonel Marcus L. Brown said. “As first responders, our troopers have the potential for saving lives by providing prompt treatment to overdose victims. We will also support the state’s efforts in the overdose prevention public awareness campaign. Our 22 barrack commanders are already informing citizens in each county of the increase in overdose deaths, the fact that no region of the state is immune, and that help is available to anyone by dialing 211 to locate the closest treatment resources.”

The press conference today continues the “Governing for Results” series — a statewide effort to promote the O’Malley-Brown Administration’s 16 strategic goals and highlight Maryland’s progress in the areas of opportunity (jobs and schools), sustainability, public safety, and health. Kicked off in early June, events will continue over the next several months and will chronicle some of the different strategies the Administration is using to make Maryland a safer, healthier place with more jobs and opportunity for all Marylanders.