Mayor’s Heroin Task Force Calls for Expanded Treatment Better Access to Care and New Treatment Protocols
Panel also recommends public education campaign to destigmatize addiction and proposes a data system to accurately track the heroin problem
The Mayor’s Heroin Prevention and Treatment Task Force today called for major improvements to the city’s drug treatment system, including moving toward having treatment on demand with around-the-clock access and a new data system to better track the city’s heroin problem.
The Mayor’s Task Force, made up of a wide range of community leaders, public health experts and government representatives, spent 12 months examining Baltimore’s heroin problem and proposing actions to address it. You can download the full report here. Or download the media advisory here.
- Among its 10 key recommendations, the Task Force called for the city to:
- Ensure drug treatment is available on demand, by developing an around-the-clock treatment center for addiction and by increasing the number of treatment slots in both inpatient and outpatient settings.
- Develop voluntary certification and inspection for substance abuse providers based on core standards of care. The report includes proposed standards of care to ensure that treatment providers are offering services that have been proven to be effective.
- Develop a data-tracking system to provide timely information about the number of people with substance use disorders, fatal and near-fatal overdoses and the city’s overall capacity to provide drug treatment.
- Expand case management services and improve access to treatment for at-risk populations, including people who are incarcerated or recently released from incarceration.
- Expand the use of evidence-based treatments such as buprenorphine in helping people overcome addictions to heroin and other opioids, including oxycodone.
“This report is an important blueprint for improving the city, and we are already working to implement its recommendations,” said Mayor Rawlings-Blake. “Heroin is a problem that affects not just those who use the drug but all of us. We will remain focused on reducing heroin use, preventing overdose deaths and improving access to care, and we will work closely with a range of partners to accomplish those critical goals.”
The Task Force also examined issues that affect neighborhoods near drug treatment centers and recommended the creation of a standardized “good neighbor” agreement between centers and surrounding communities. The report calls for the establishment of best practices for treatment providers and community members related to issues such as loitering, cleanliness and security. In addition, the Task Force re-examined the scope of heroin addiction in Baltimore City and estimated that the city is home to about 18,900 people who have used heroin in the past year. Heroin use, along with the abuse of other opioids, is a major factor in crime in the city and leads to a range of health and social problems.
At the press conference to release the report, the Baltimore City Health Department will launch a new campaign to inform the public about naloxone, a drug that can prevent deaths from overdoses from heroin and other opioids. Using social media, bus shelter ads, billboards and a new website-dontdie.org, the eight-week campaign will inform the public that naloxone can save lives.
BHSB and the Health Department under Dr. Wen’s guidance, have taken steps to expand the availability of naloxone to police, emergency responders and members of the public. The campaign, which was developed by the Johns Hopkins Center for Communication Programs and Mission Media, is a step in implementing one of the Task Force’s recommendations – to develop a citywide heroin overdose plan.
“We are working aggressively to save lives by educating the public about naloxone and making it much more widely available,” said Dr. Wen. “We know there are practical things we can do to prevent overdose deaths, and expanding the availability of naloxone is an important way to accomplish that.”
The Task Force also recommended that the city launch a major outreach campaign to educate people about substance use, de-stigmatize those who have substance use disorders and urge people with problems to seek treatment. The Task Force was co-chaired by Bernard J. McBride, chief executive of Behavioral Health System Baltimore, and Dr. Samuel Ross, chief executive of Bon Secours Baltimore Health System.