More than 1,000 Baltimore City residents have been saved from opioid overdoses since January 2016.
Since 2005, OSI-Baltimore has worked with the Baltimore City Health Department to address the rise in overdose deaths, as documented in OSI-Baltimore’s 2016 white paper, “Baltimore’s Response to the Overdose Epidemic,” which includes an introduction from Health Commissioner Dr. Leana Wen.
One key element of OSI’s overdose prevention strategy has been to increase the availability and use of naloxone, also called Narcan, the life-saving opioid antidote medication. In particular, OSI-Baltimore, through its grantees, has worked to train opioid users, who are at the greatest risk for an overdose, to administer the drug.
OSI-Baltimore grantee, the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence-Maryland publicly explained the benefits of a Good Samaritan law which protects someone who reports an overdose from arrest. The law was passed in 2015.
Also in 2015, we brought together our grantee, Behavioral Health System Baltimore, with the Baltimore Police Department and the Health Department to initiate a program to train officers to administer naloxone. At the same time, Health Commissioner Wen wrote a blanket prescription for naloxone for the 620,000 residents of Baltimore City and, with OSI funding, launched a first-of-its-kind web portal, dontdie.org, to train residents to administer naloxone.
As a result of these efforts, more than 20,000 people have learned how to administer naloxone and the Health Department has distributed more than 15,000 units of the drug to city residents. More than 1,000 residents have been saved from potentially fatal overdoses since January, 2016.
Meanwhile, this work helped to shift the discussion about substance use away from the criminal justice system and toward public health. This approach, one that reduces stigma and increases access to care, is the hallmark of our Drug Addiction Treatment program, and OSI-Baltimore will continue to support programs that help individuals with substance use disorders to enter treatment instead of the criminal justice system.