Governing Magazine recently published its list of Public Officials of the Year, which included Baltimore Health Commissioner, Dr. Leana Wen. From the publication, “Every year since 1994, Governing has honored individual state and local government officials for outstanding accomplishment by naming them Public Officials of the Year.”
Wen, the profile noted, who took office only months before the uprising after Freddie Gray died in police custody, used her platform to introduce and bolster a wide array of new public health programs, focusing on poverty and violence.
“If we care about our children and their education,” she said, “we should also care about lead poisoning in their homes. If we care about public safety, we should also address mental health and substance addiction and the huge unmet need there.”
Of the many programs Wen has started, expanded, or supported, the opioid crisis in Baltimore has been a main focus. In 2015 OSI-Baltimore grantee Behavioral Health System Baltimore (BHSB) began working with the Health Department and the Baltimore City Police Department (BPD) to train officers to administer naloxone. This past summer, Wen wrote a blanket prescription for naloxone for all Baltimore City residents.
In 2016, OSI released a white paper, “Baltimore’s Response to the Overdose Epidemic: An Open Society Institute-Baltimore Brief,” including an opening letter from Dr. Wen.