Dr. Wen with Scott Nolen, director of OSI’s Drug Addiction Treatment program
This weekend, the New York Times published a letter from Baltimore City Health Commissioner Leana S. Wen in response to a previously published Times article that suggested naloxone, a medication used to treat opioid overdoses, can encourage addition.
“Those who say that saving someone’s life with naloxone will only foster addiction are being unscientific, inhumane and ill informed,” she wrote. “We would never refuse an EpiPen to someone experiencing a peanut allergy for fear that it would encourage him to eat peanut butter.”
In a follow-up Facebook post, Dr. Wen emphasized the need to make “policy decisions based on science, not stigma.”
OSI-Baltimore supports Dr. Wen’s stance, not only on the importance of using naloxone to fight opioid addiction, but also the need to recognize that addiction is a chronic disease and should be treated through the medical system, not the criminal justice system. Our Drug Addiction Treatment program has long supported Dr. Wen’s initiatives to make naloxone more readily available.
This spring, OSI provided funding for the web portal dontdie.org that makes it easier for Baltimoreans to get naloxone. Previously, OSI granted $25,000 to Behavioral Health System Baltimore to launch a pilot program in collaboration with Baltimore Police Department (BPD) and Baltimore City Health Department (BCHD) to train Baltimore police officers to administer naloxone and equip them with naloxone kits. OSI has also partnered with the BPD and the BCHD on the Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion (LEAD) program which works to divert low-level drug offenders to treatment and support services while allowing them to avoid arrest.
Congress seems to agree with our efforts. Early this summer, both the House and Senate passed the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA), a bill that authorizes $181 million in funds for a broad response to the opioid epidemic.