Gov. Larry Hogan

Gov. Larry Hogan

REISTERTOWN — Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan on Wednesday escalated his administration’s response to the opioid-addiction crisis, declaring a “state of emergency” and committing an additional $50 million over the next five years to beef up enforcement, prevention and treatment services.

The first-term Republican signed an executive order calling for the state of emergency, an instrument many jurisdictions use to coordinate anti-opioid and heroin strategies. The action fulfills a campaign promise he made in 2014, but temporarily shelved after taking office in favor of other legislative and executive initiatives.

The governor, who lost a cousin to addiction years ago, said the the declaration underscores what he described as “an all-hands-on deck approach” to growing rates of heroin, opioid and fentanyl use.

“The reality is that this threat is rapidly escalating,” Hogan said, appearing with Lt. Gov. Boyd Rutherford and a large contingent of state officials at the command center of the Maryland Emergency Management Agency outside Baltimore.

Heroin and fentanyl, a powerful synthetic opioid, killed 1,468 Maryland residents in the first nine months of 2016, up 62 percent from the same period in 2015, according to state data. Many of those who overdosed initially abused prescription painkillers and other opioids. The trends are part of a nationwide opioid epidemic.

State officials acknowledged that the emergency declared Wednesday bears little resemblance to the kinds of mobilizations that are typical after severe weather emergencies or extreme civil unrest, and usually involve curfews and travel restrictions.

They said the death toll from opioids justifies use of the state emergency management agency to break down bureaucratic silos separating different bureaucracies and local and state officials.

“It gives us the ability to leverage the resources that are available,” said Clay Stamp, Hogan’s senior emergency management adviser, who will lead the statewide effort.

He and others could offer few specifics. Stamp, a former director of the state emergency management agency and the Talbot County Department of Emergency Services, agreed that details were “squishy” at this point. He also said he’d been tasked with the job the day before Hogan’s announcement.

At the same time, Stamp said his experience would help him coordinate law enforcement, social services and public health providers. He said “clear, specific goals” will be announced soon.

Opioid abuse has been a signature issue for Hogan. Shortly after taking office, he formed a task force headed by Rutherford that has made nearly three dozen recommendations on drug policy. The governor has proposed bills that include measures to limit prescriptions of opioid-based painkillers and to increase prison sentences for dealers.

Hogan said he will submit a supplemental budget request to lawmakers for the five-year $50 million expenditure. He did not say where the money would come from.

Although some parent activists and other advocacy groups have applauded Hogan’s efforts, others say he should do more — including devote more resources and attention to long-term residential treatment.

“We don’t need education, and we don’t need more law enforcement,” Mike Gimbel, a former Baltimore County drug czar and a recovering heroin addict, said in a statement Wednesday. “We need treatment on demand. Ten million new dollars is a drop in the bucket.”

Hogan said that the state cannot shoulder the burden by itself, and that federal and local governments, along with the nonprofit sector, have to step up.

One idea the governor categorically rejected Wednesday: a proposal by Del. Dan Morhaim, a Baltimore County Democrat, to create “safe” sites for heroin users, where trained professionals could protect them from overdose and unsanitary needles.

Morhaim, a physician, calls the idea part of a “harm-reduction strategy.” He proposed legislation to make it happen last year, and has introduced a similar bill this year.

“I think it’s absolutely insane. . . . Maybe he wants to get a license to sell heroin,” Hogan said, referring to the lawmaker’s role as a consultant to a prospective medical marijuana dispensary and his advocacy of laws that allow medical cannabis.

The Maryland General Assembly is examining whether Morhaim’s involvement in the medical marijuana company poses ethical issues.

Morhaim’s opioid bill echoes recommendations by researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, who published a study saying Baltimore should open two safe drug-consumption places.

The delegate told the Daily Record newspaper Wednesday that he did not violate any ethics rules in his work for medical marijuana in Maryland, and said Hogan should apologize for his remark.

(18) comments

sue1955

Kelly, crowperch is not saying "manager." Officer Manger is the name of the MOCO sheriff.

tonyc51

"“We don’t need education, and we don’t need more law enforcement,” Mike Gimbel, a former Baltimore County drug czar and a recovering heroin addict, said in a statement Wednesday. “We need treatment on demand. Ten million new dollars is a drop in the bucket." Really don't need to educate about the effects of drug abuse, don't need to educate the doctors in better prescribing practices, don't need to educate in schools about the pitfalls of becoming addicted, don't need to educate the parents in how to recognize when your children begin to show signs of a drug problem? ....... Don't need improved law enforcement to get pushers off the street. Or oversight in the prescribing practices of doctors. Don't need law enforcement to intervene when addicts are robbing and killing to get the fix....Mr. Gimbal, if you were a drug czar in Baltimore county, there is little wonder the problem continues to escalate. Yes there is more need for treatment of addicts, but there will never be sufficient treatment options or CURE to the problem unless we can stop people from being addicted in the first place. That, Mr. Gimbel was one of the dumbest statements I believe I have ever heard.

DickD

Personally, I agree with the Governor. What is left unsaid is how he will accomplish it. My suggestion is more than mere treatment of addicts, which is very important. But it is more important to stop the drugs. Why can't we interrogate those with drug problems and find out who is pedaling drugs. We could go farther too, as I am sure if school children are on drugs, the teachers know it and can report it, so an investigation can be made.

Frayou

So. The pharmaceuticals advertise, recommend, push these drugs onto the general population who become addicted, Rack up multi billion in profits and now the taxpayer is expected to foot the bill addressing the problems. What is wrong with this situation? Where is the pharmaceuticals share in addressing the issue??

DisabledFrederickVeteran

Our Sheriff is very affable but not effective and because we are part of the DC Swap the Sheriff knows he will keep his job as long as he keeps croaking the same racist tunes to his bog mates.

DickD

Yes, but aren't you a Republican?

DisabledFrederickVeteran

Yes but there's are times I put my community, state and country ahead of my party.

Fawned

Here is one area I wholeheartedly disagree with Hogan. More law enforcement will not help, we need to take a different approach and he needs to listen and consider them. Why no mention at all of the pharmaceutic industry and doctors that passed out these opioids to patients like candy? Look at how well more enforcement has worked in the past. Look how well it has worked in cities like Baltimore. He's been saying he was going to something about it since 2015 and then in 2016 we have a 62% increase. Marylanders need to push him in a different direction on this, and he needs to listen to the people.

tonyc51

"The governor has proposed bills that include measures to limit prescriptions of opioid-based painkillers " reread the article, please.

crowperch

OK, now I understand the problem.

KellyAlzan

Ok, but Frederic County Sheriff Jenkins says "blah blah blah" about the heroin addiction crises. He doesn't have time to contend with heroin addicts, he has hard working illegal immigrants to deport.....

crowperch

I'll take Sheriff Jenkins any day over the deracinated cuck, Manger, in MoCo who picks and chooses a la carte which laws to enforce. He must bow to his overlords, on the County Council, and do his bit to assist ushering MoCo into an unlivable hellhole. It's at tipping point now. He'll retire soon to some safe, clean enclave, so what's it to him? He ignores the opioid/methamphetamine nexus as he virtue signals his refusal to enforce immigration law. So, yeah, Chuck Jenkins is a law man, the type best-suited to enforce law.

DisabledFrederickVeteran

Our sheriff has failed us.

DickD

DFV, do you mean his trip to Texas was a waste of time and money?

KellyAlzan

No where does my post make any mention of authorities in MOCO. Did you intend to reply to some other comment and replied to my comment by accident?

crowperch

My reply was intentional, jumping-off from your disparagement of FredCo Sheriff for enforcing immigration law. I said I'd prefer Jenkins to Manger re: their respective attitudes and actions in performing the job. I should think that would have been easily grasped, but perhaps my thinking/ writing skills are rusty. Perdonami.

KellyAlzan

no clue what "manager" is. law enforcement usually has sheriff, chief, commander, etc., never heard of "manager" in law enforcement. guess i'm old school.......

DickD

Being Sheriff is a huge job with many subordinates. Anyone doing the job needs to be complimented, but in my opinion, Karl Bickle would do a far better job or perhaps Dine.

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