Newly Passed Bill Gives Maryland Hope

by Brynn Smith ‘19

Recently, the Maryland General Assembly overwhelmingly passed the HOPE Act (Heroin and Opioid Prevention Effort), a bill comprised of several measures aimed at decreasing the recent spike in death due to opioid addiction in Maryland. Governor Larry Hogan signed it into law on May 25.

Drug overdoses are a growing problem throughout the country, and Maryland is not an exception. According to Maryland’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, the number of opiate deaths has nearly doubled since 2010. Opioid overdoses are now one of the leading causes of deaths in Maryland, surpassing homicide and car crashes.

“We need to treat this crisis the exact same way we would treat any other state emergency,” said Governor Hogan in a statement about an executive order he signed on March 1, which declared a state of emergency in response to the opioid crisis. “This is about taking an all-hands-on-deck approach so that together we can save the lives of thousands of Marylanders.”

Governor Hogan, who ran on a platform of enforcement, treatment, and prevention of the opioid crisis, collaborated with the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene and the Maryland House of Delegates to announce the legislative effort to address Maryland’s opioid epidemic.

The HOPE Act is Maryland’s plan to combat this growing issue. One facet of the act is a significant increase in funding for community health services, like rehab clinics. Another provision will expand and promote a 24/7 crisis hotline for mental health and substance abuse problems. The General Assembly also requested the appropriation of $2 million in subsidies to expand the scope of drug court programs.

The HOPE act also allows for the wider distribution of an overdose reversal drug known as naloxone. Before the HOPE act, naloxone was only accessible to those who were thoroughly trained in using it. Now, the overdose prevention drug is available directly from the pharmacist and public schools are required to to keep naloxone on hand; school nurses will be allowed to administer the drug without fear of liability. Sherwood’s school nurses have been trained in using naloxone for over a year.

Under the HOPE act, it is now mandatory for colleges to educate incoming students on substance abuse. Delegates from across Maryland combined several submitted strategies on how to stop the opioid crisis to come up with the measures passed in the HOPE act.

New and more dangerous drugs seem to be popping up as fast as the American population can ingest them. Carfentanil, one of the strongest opioids on the market, is the cause of many recently reported overdose deaths.

“[The increase in drug induced fatalities] is very concerning. The carfentanil is so alarming that it can be absorbed through the skin, it makes it that much more dangerous,” said Jennifer Jones, Sherwood’s school nurse.