Earlier this week, the Baltimore Sun reported on Baltimore hospitals’ stepped-up efforts to fight the opioid epidemic, including screening patients for addiction, connecting them to rehabilitation services, and distributing overdose reversal drug Naloxone. Two of the hospitals mentioned, Bon Secours and Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center, are part of an OSI-supported program to develop models for emergency department diversion of people with substance use disorder that improve crisis response, increase access to treatment, and reduce hospital costs.
In a Sun op-ed published yesterday, Mayor Catherine Pugh and Health Commissioner Dr. Leana Wen emphasized that addiction is a disease best treated in existing health care institutions:
Let’s build upon the work that’s already been done and make Baltimore City a national model for treating addiction alongside every other disease. That means treating addiction in the places where medical treatment is best delivered: in our traditional health care institutions — hospitals included.
In March, the Sun also wrote about OSI’s collaboration with the Baltimore City Health Department to develop a real-time tool to monitor how many drug treatment slots are available in the city at any moment in order to streamline the process connecting those who seek treatment for substance use disorders to open beds in treatment facilities, helping to combat overdose deaths and reduce the stigma surrounding addiction. As the story notes, OSI made a $270,000 grant to the Health Department to launch the initiative.
OSI-Baltimore has a long history of working with the Health Department to address the overdose epidemic. More than 10 years ago, this partnership resulted in the establishment of an overdose prevention program to train opioid users, who were at greatest risk for an overdose, to administer naloxone, the life-saving opioid antidote medication. More recently, 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. At the same time, Wen wrote a blanket prescription for naloxone for all Baltimore City residents; training, which is available on the web portal, dontdie.org, was required then. Last August, OSI-Baltimore released a white paper, “Baltimore’s Response to the Overdose Epidemic: An Open Society Institute-Baltimore Brief,” including an opening letter from Dr. Wen.