Maryland Declares State of Emergency Over Opioid Epidemic

Maryland allocates an additional $50 million over 5 years to combat opioid misuse.

Maryland Governor Larry Hogan recently signed an executive order that declared a State of Emergency over the opioid epidemic that is proving detrimental to Maryland and across the whole country.

Other governors, including New Jersey Gov Chris Christie, have also signed emergency executive orders over the opioid epidemic, which has claimed many lives in the past few years.

“We need to treat this crisis the exact same way we would treat any other state emergency. With this continuing threat increasing at such an alarming rate, we must allow for rapid coordination with our state and local emergency teams,” Hogan said in an announcement. “We must cut through the red tape so that we are empowering the important work being done in our many state agencies and at the local level all across our state. This is about taking an all-hands-on-deck approach so that together we can save the lives of thousands of Marylanders.”

The new declaration signed by Hogan activates the emergency management authority and allows for more coordination between state and local authorities, according to a press release from the governor’s office.

Along with Lieutenant Gov Boyd Rutherford, Hogan announced $50 million in funding allocated to combatting the opioid epidemic.

“The fact of the matter is that people all across Maryland, and across our country, are looking for answers when it comes to this heroin and opioid epidemic. Too many families know the devastation caused by this crisis and the death toll is climbing,” Rutherford said. “Ultimately, this is about saving lives, and it will take all of us working together in a collaborative, holistic approach to achieve that.”

The State of Emergency declaration is a response to findings from the Opioid Operational Command Center (OOCC), which was created to increase collaboration between state agencies, according to the governor.

The OOCC’s findings indicate that Maryland needs the flexibility to activate emergency teams across the state to engage local communities. The new executive order gives emergency powers to state and local emergency management officials, which allows them to quickly coordinate between state and local agencies and community organizations, according to the release.

An additional $50 million over 5 years will be given to supplement the state’s prevention, recovery, and enforcement efforts. The governor’s order also provides spending flexibility to public health and safety professionals to address the many parts of the opioid crisis.

Hogan also asked Clay Stamp, his senior advisor for emergency management, to oversee the new efforts.

“As an emergency management professional, it gives me great honor to have been chosen to lead such an important effort, and to serve next to the many dedicated and highly capable people who are working to eliminate the impact this crisis is having on the people of Maryland,” Stamp said.

In January 2017, Hogan and Rutherford created the 2017 Heroin Prevention, Treatment, and Enforcement Initiative, which is a multi-dimensional approach to tackle the threat of heroin and opioid misuse, according to the release. The initiative includes important legislation and $4 million in funding to address the opioid crisis.

Since recognizing the growing opioid epidemic in 2014, the governors have made actively fighting opioid misuse a substantial part of their legislative agenda. In 2015, Hogan and Rutherford created the Heroin and Opioid Emergency Task Force, which created 33 new recommendations centered around prevention, treatment, and law enforcement.

They also signed a regional compact with Virginia and Washington, DC, in October 2016, to coordinate the region’s response to the opioid epidemic, according to the release.

More recently, Hogan has discussed the crisis with governors and federal officials at the National Governor’s Association, and even addressed the issue as a priority for the state in a meeting with Maryland’s federal delegation in February 2017, according to the press release.

Maryland and other states have continued to take action against the opioid epidemic in hopes of preventing more Americans from developing opioid use disorder, as well as helping those in need seek treatment.