Photo via Wikimedia Commons

Several months out since Gov. Larry Hogan called a state of emergency and announced $50 million coming over the next five years to fight Maryland’s worsening opioid crisis, the money is starting to flow.

The governor’s office today announced the first $10 million of that sum has been released, along with another $10 million in federal money from the 21st Century Cures Act and $2.1 million from the Governor’s Office of Crime and Prevention. Baltimore will benefit most directly from that federal aid, with $2 million of it going toward creating a 24-hour crisis center here in Baltimore.

“Finding real solutions to the heroin and opioid crisis that is ravaging our communities is a top priority of our administration,” Gov. Hogan said in a statement. “This new funding will make real differences in people’s lives as we work together to turn the tide in this deadly fight.”

Maryland qualified for $20 million under the 21st Century Cures Act, which was enacted in December. The state will receive the other $10 million in fiscal 2019.

City Health Commissioner Leana Wen said the stabilization center will offer a “diversion from the emergency department,” reducing ER expenses and instead connecting patients with services ranging from basic medical screenings, hydration and food to social services and case management.

“Somebody who would have gone to the emergency department because of intoxication, because of their disease of addiction, will now be going to this center instead,” she said.

The health department has been working with state officials for three years to build the center at its planned location at 2700 Rayner Avenue in West Baltimore’s Mosher neighborhood (formerly the Hebrew Orphan Asylum). Wen said the city secured about $3.6 million from the state legislature and another $200,000 from the city. The additional $2 million in state funds will go toward operating costs, she said.

Baltimore is also getting $830,000 from the state for local “opioid intervention teams,” which work within the community and offer drug users the opioid-reversing drug naloxone, as well as access to medication-assisted treatment, psychosocial counseling and case management, Wen said.

Another $750,000 will be allocated toward the purchase of 10,000 units, or 20,000 doses, of the opioid-reversing medication Naloxone, which has been in short supply. The health commissioner said the city at present has to ration its supply of 5,000 units through July of 2018.

“Ten-thousand units is a big step in the right direction, so we very much appreciate the state for recognizing the need,” Wen said.

The city’s $830,000 share of the $4 million pie for opioid intervention teams in all 24 Maryland jurisdictions is by far the largest piece. But it’s fitting, given that Baltimore contributed a third of the nearly 2,100 overdose deaths that happened around the state in 2016, most of them due to prescription opioids, heroin or fentanyl.

The governor’s office said Baltimore is also eligible to apply for a total of $6 million in funding.

Other portions of the state and federal money will be used to expand access to treatment beds ($3.2 million), boost availability of Naloxone ($2.7 million) and fund public education and awareness initiatives ($1.4 million) and law enforcement efforts targeting drug traffickers ($1.25 million), among other areas. A more detailed breakdown is available on the governor’s office’s website.

The funding announcement comes at the start of the 2018 fiscal year, which began July 1.

Overdose deaths have climbed threefold since 2010, according to most recent state data.

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Ethan McLeod

Ethan McLeod is a freelance reporter in Baltimore. He previously worked as an editor for the Baltimore Business Journal and Baltimore Fishbowl. His work has appeared in Bloomberg CityLab, Next City and...