MHA's Friday Update Messages

MHA Friday Update Weekly Messages

Legislature Helps Battle the Opioid Crisis

April 14, 2017 By: Carmela Coyle

For Maryland’s hospitals, the state’s behavioral health crisis has been a priority – both on the front lines of care and in the halls of Annapolis. Some important bills were passed during this year’s just-adjourned legislative session that hold the promise of hope for those who are suffering:

  • The Keep the Door Open Act will provide more than $100 million in funding for community-based health providers, important partners for your organizations as you work to direct patients suffering with substance use and mental health disorders to the most appropriate care setting
  • The HOPE & Treatment Act, a comprehensive package to address opioid addiction that expands programs to care for patients suffering with substance use disorders, creates local teams to reduce overdose deaths and near-death cases, establishes a crisis hotline, develops educational materials on opioid use disorder, and increases the availability of opioid treatment prescribers
  • The Start Talking Act requires the State Board of Education to develop and implement a drug addiction and prevention education program in public schools, and mandates that county school boards establish a policy to authorize school personnel to administer naloxone
  • The Prescriber Limits Act requires providers to prescribe the lowest effective dose of an opioid, and a quantity that is no more than what is needed for the expected duration of a patient’s pain
  • The expansion of telehealth programs will help substance use disorder treatment providers, who are in short supply, offer services remotely and as a result treat more patients

In addition to these new laws, the state is beefing up its opioid enforcement, prevention and treatment services after Governor Hogan in March declared a state of emergency and committed an additional $50 million to the problem. The Department of Health & Mental Hygiene is now working with hospitals to increase emergency department access to the opioid-reversing drug naloxone and expand universal screenings for substance use disorders.

Together, the new laws and the additional state aid provide some of the much-needed support that hospitals have long sought not only to combat the state’s behavioral health crisis, but also to help others realize that the right care, at the right time, in the right setting goes beyond the emergency department.