The Chatter

Opioid Overdose Medication Naloxone on Short Supply in Baltimore

Dr. Leana Wen seeking additional state funding for life-saving drug.

By Michelle Harris | July 5, 2017, 12:17 pm

The Chatter

Opioid Overdose Medication Naloxone on Short Supply in Baltimore

Dr. Leana Wen seeking additional state funding for life-saving drug.

By Michelle Harris | July 5, 2017, 12:17 pm

Get Baltimore Daily.

Sign up today and you'll get our latest stories delivered straight to your inbox every weekday afternoon.

Every day at least two people die from opioid overdose in Baltimore City, according to health commissioner Dr. Leana Wen. There are only 4,000 doses remaining of the life-saving drug, naloxone, to last until July 2018 with no set date for replenishment.

“If we didn’t ration it, we would use it up in the next two weeks,” said Wen. “Right now, we are making the decision every day about who are the most vulnerable people, and rationing it accordingly.”

Naloxone, or more specifically Narcan, is a medication­ administered as a nasal spray or injection that reverses the effects of opioids during an overdose. Since 2015, residents administering Narcan to victims of overdose saved over 950 lives in Baltimore.

⇓ Article continues below ⇓

As of June 1, legislators enacted a standing order for a blanket prescription of Narcan at all pharmacies in the city. Unfortunately, the Baltimore City Health Department has run out of funds to purchase the medicine, and has been relying on the generosity of drug companies for donations.

“It’s very safe and effective. It’s got no side effects to someone who is not using opioids,” Wen said. “It’s not addictive—this is a life saving antidote that should be available to every single person.”

Back in March, Governor Larry Hogan declared a state of emergency for the opioid epidemic in Maryland. He also announced a supplemental budget of $50 million in new funding over five years for opioid overdose prevention and treatment.

Katie Kuehn, communications director for the Opioid Operational Command Center, said that as part of the first $10 million in the budget, funding would be available “soon” to local jurisdictions to purchase more naloxone.

“Recognizing the urgency of providing additional naloxone to Baltimore, Behavioral Health System Baltimore requested . . . that a portion of its current budget be allocated to purchase more naloxone to be used by the end of this fiscal year,” she said in an email. “Behavioral Health System Baltimore and the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene's Behavioral Health Administration worked together to determine that $150,000 was needed, and it was approved the same day.”

According to Wen, Baltimore City has over one-third of all overdoses in the state, so she believes that Baltimore should receive at least one-third of that $10 million.

“We need Narcan, but we also definitely need treatment,” Wen said. “It’s important to save someone’s life if they’re overdosing, but we also need to get them into long-term treatment. That’s what will help them get their lives back.”

Kuehn said that more information about state funding would be announced in the coming days. Currently, the Baltimore City Health Department is awaiting a response from the state for the funding request, but Wen is being proactive with the fight against opioid abuse and overdose. Initiatives like the needle exchange program, which provides clean needles and substance abuse counseling, service about 3,500 people a year.

In addition, the Start Talking Act, which was passed this year, requires public schools to offer drug education as early as third grade, including the dangers of heroin and other opioids.

“Everyone has the ability to save a life. Unfortunately, in our community there are people dying who are mothers, fathers, siblings,” Wen said. “We strongly believe that everyone should have naloxone in their medicine cabinet."

Meet The Author
Michelle Harris is the digital content coordinator for Baltimore, where she covers news, community, sports, and beauty.

You May Also Like

Health & Wellness

Gift Guide 2017

This holiday season, it’s key to acknowledge the importance of both self-care and taking care of one another.

Health & Wellness

Brain Trust

One hundred and twenty-six years after opening, Sheppard Pratt Health System gets a new director and honors its past in the present.

The Chatter

Local Nonprofit Provides Fitness for Wounded Veterans Nationwide

Catch A Lift aims to empower veterans to regain mental and physical strength.

Health & Wellness

Mind's Eye

Without sight for nearly 60 years, Wilmer Eye Institute board chairman Sandy Greenberg aims to end blindness.

Food & Drink

Thanksgiving Runs, Crafts, and Events

Nine ways to celebrate the season of thanks.

Connect With Us

Most Read

The Most Festive, Family-Friendly Holiday Events : From bright lights to dancing sugar plum fairies, enjoy these kid-friendly happenings.

Baltimore Joins the SAFE Cities Network to Provide Legal Assistance for Immigrants: The city will offer pro bono legal counsel, education, and family safety planning for its residents.

How to Build a Kitty Condo to Keep Stray Cats Warm This Winter: A step-by-step tutorial to provide neighborhood cats a safe shelter.

Chef Andrew Carmellini Talks Fried Chicken and Rye Street Tavern: The James Beard Award-winning chef discusses his time in Baltimore.

Open & Shut: Union Collective; Lee’s Pint & Shell; Center Cut Doughnuts: The latest restaurant openings, closings, and recent news.

Doctor Finder