Overdose​ Prevention in Maryland​

On March 1, 2017, Governor Larry Hogan signed Executive Order 01.01.2017.02 declaring a State of Emergency in response to the heroin, opioid, and fentanyl crisis ravaging communities in Maryland and across the country. This declaration activates the governor’s emergency management authority and enables increased and more rapid coordination between the state and local jurisdictions. The governor, along with Lt. Governor Boyd Rutherford, also announced $50 million in new funding to address the crisis, as well as the appointment of the governor’s senior emergency management advisor Clay Stamp to lead the state’s coordinated effort to combat the crisis. 

Drug overdoses have become a serious public health challenge in Maryland and across the country. In Maryland, the total number of overdose deaths has risen steadily since 2010, mainly due to the increase in heroin-related deaths. According to the Department of Health , as it has become more difficult and expensive to obtain prescription opioids, people have switched to cheaper and more accessible heroin.
Maryland’s state agencies have engaged in comprehensive, cross-agency efforts to reduce opioid overdose deaths. These efforts include educating the public and implementing new medical practices.​

Governor Hogan, Lt. Governor Rutherford Announce 2017 Heroin and Opioid Prevention, Treatment, and Enforcement Initiative​

Governor Larry Hogan and Lt. Governor Boyd Rutherford joined with the Department of Health  Secretary Dennis Schrader, Governor’s Office of Crime Control and Prevention Executive Director Glenn Fueston, Anne Arundel County Executive Steve Schuh, Anne Arundel State’s Attorney Wes Adams, and Anne Arundel Medical Center President Victoria Bayless at the Anne Arundel Medical Center, January 24, 2017,  to announce the administration’s 2017 Heroin and Opioid Prevention, Treatment, and Enforcement Initiative, a multi-pronged and sweeping administrative and legislative effort to continue addressing Maryland’s ongoing opioid and heroin epidemic. 
As part of this initiative, Governor Hogan signed an Executive Order​, amending the 2015 Executive Order to establish the Inter-Agency Heroin and Opioid Coordinating Council, authorizing the council to establish the Opioid Operational Command Center. The center will facilitate greater collaboration between state and local public health, human services, education, and public safety entities to reduce the harmful impacts of opioid addiction on Maryland communities. 
The creation of a statewide Opioid Operational Command Center will assist in breaking down governmental silos and aid in the coordination of federal, state, and local resources, working directly with both local and federal organizations and agencies, as well as 12 state agencies and departments including: the Governor’s Office of Crime Control & Prevention; Department of Health; Maryland Emergency Management Agency; Maryland State Police; Maryland State Department of Education; Department of Human Resources, Department of Juvenile Services; Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services; Maryland Institute for Emergency Medical Services Systems; Maryland Higher Education Commission; Maryland Insurance Administration; and the Office of the Attorney General. As a direct result from increased collaboration, the center will collect and collate data – data that will be used to save lives.
In addition to $4 million new funding, three new pieces of legislation are also being proposed: the Distribution of Opioids Resulting in Death Act, the Prescriber Limits Act, and the Overdose Prevention Act. ​

Governor Hogan, Lt. Governor Rutherford Establish Maryland Heroin And Opioid Task Force And Coordinating Council​​

On February 24, 2015, Governor Larry Hogan and Lt. Governor Boyd Rutherford announced the establishment of both the Heroin and Opioid Emergency Task Force and a separate Inter-Agency Coordinating Council​. Both groups will work and support efforts to address Maryland’s growing heroin and opioid crisis. “For far too long, state and local agencies have worked in silos with little communication and less coordination,” said Governor Hogan. “The purpose of the inter-agency council and task force is to connect the dots of prevention, treatment, and recovery and maximize our resources and expertise to come up with real solutions to save and restore lives.” 


Data and Reports​​

In order to better understand the epidemic, Maryland has enhanced surveillance in the state through reports on drug and alcohol intoxication deaths using data from the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner. The more detailed and timely review of data allows the Department and local jurisdictions to identify patterns of overdose activity, which enhances public health responses and planned interventions at the state and local levels. 

Opioid Overdose Prevention Plans

Maryland's overdose prevention efforts are rooted in the Maryland Opioid Overdose Prevention Plan, a statewide strategy for reducing overdose deaths related to pharmaceutical opioids and heroin. The plan's state goal is to reduce unintentional overdoses involving opioids, such as prescription painkillers and heroin.  Released in January 2013, the plan includes components such as:

Enhancing overdose-related data sharing and analysis,
Improving access to substance use disorder treatment and recovery services,
Providing clinical education and training for healthcare providers,
Implementing the Prescription Drug Monitoring Program,
Broadening access to naloxone, and other initiatives.​
In 2013, all Maryland counties and Baltimore City submitted loc​al overdose prevention plans to the Department of Health. Key themes in the plans include:

Promoting clinician education on opioid prescribing practices and use of the Prescription Drug Monitoring Program,
Outreach to populations at high risk of overdose,
Expanding access to medication-assisted treatment for individuals with opioid dependence,
Encouraging naloxone distribution, and
Increasing public awareness.  


The Maryland General Assembly passed a law that went into effect on October 1, 2015 that will expand public access to naloxone. This law has been expanded since and is composed of a few key components that directly impact providers:

​​Physicians, advanced practice nurses, dentists, and other providers with prescribing authority can prescribe naloxone to any individual who is believed to be at risk of experiencing an opioid overdose or in a position to assist an individual at potential risk of an opioid overdose. This means that Marylanders can go directly to their provider to get naloxone and get educated on how to use it to save someone’s life. ​
Prescribers are immune from civil liability for prescribing naloxone. The law protects providers from civil lawsuits when they prescribe or dispense naloxone in good faith and according to statutory requirements. Those who administer naloxone to someone believed to be experiencing an opioid overdose, may be protected from civil liability under an existing state “Good Samaritan” law.
​Enhancements to the Overdose Response Program (ORP). The new law also enhances the Maryland Overdose Response Program (ORP), a public health initiative providing overdose education and naloxone distribution to community members across the state. The ORP has trained over 76,000 Marylanders since its launch in early 2014. The program provides free educational resources for training patients and other laypersons on responding to an opioid overdose with naloxone. Licensed physicians or advanced practice nurses with prescribing authority may issue a standing order to delegate the authority for dispensing naloxone to an individual that completes the MDH authorized training.
​​Pharmacists may dispense naloxone under a Statewide Standing Order issued by Deputy Secretary of the Maryland Department of Health.

Prescription Drug Monitoring Program (PDMP)​​

Fully launched in December 2013, the Maryland P​DMP aims to reduce prescription drug misuse and diversion by creating a secure database of all Schedule II-V controlled dangerous substances (CDS) prescribed and dispensed in Maryland. The PDMP can make data on prescription opioids and other CDS available to healthcare providers, pharmacists, patients, researchers, health occupations licensing boards, and public health and safety agencies. 

Overdose Response Program​

Maryland’s Overdose Response Program provides for the training of individuals to administer naloxone based on their ability to assist someone at risk of dying from an opioid-related overdose when emergency medical services are not immediately available. The law enables opioid users’ family members, friends and associates to legally obtain naloxone in their own name. The Department of Health oversees the program and authorizes local health departments, community-based organizations, substance use disorder treatment programs and other health care providers to offer educational training programs and provide naloxone to trained individuals.​

Good Samaritan Law (Limited Criminal Immunity)​

The Maryland Good Samaritan Law​ effective October 1, 2015, provides protection from arrest as well as prosecution for certain specific crimes and expands the charges from which people assisting in an emergency overdose situation are immune.

If someone calls 911 in an effort to help during an overdose crisis, or they are experiencing an overdose, their parole and probation status will not affected, and they will now not be arrested, charged, or prosecuted for:

​Possession of a controlled dangerous substance​​
Possession or use of drug paraphernalia
Providing alcohol to minors

Overdose Fatality Review Teams (OFR)​

Modeled on other mortality review teams and established as medical review committees, OFRs comprise multi-agency/multi-disciplinary members that conduct confidential case reviews of overdose deaths with the goal of preventing future deaths. Teams identify missed opportunities for prevention, gaps in the system and areas for increased collaboration among agencies and stakeholders at the local level, and make recommendations for policies, programs or laws to prevent overdose deaths and to inform local overdose prevention plans. The Department of Health and Mental Hygiene currently provides overdose death records and technical assistance to teams.

Passage of HB 1282​ in 2014 establishes OFRs under Maryland law and allows any jurisdiction to establish a team. The bill creates team structure and processes; includes provisions governing data collection, maintenance and reporting, including confidentiality and agency disclosure requirements; and provides immunity from civil liability to team members participating in good faith and to persons providing information to OFRs. Teams established under the bill may advise the State about changes to law, policy, or practice on preventing overdose death. ​