Directs Attorney General to File Lawsuit Against Opioid Manufacturers; Announces Plans to Convert Former City Jail into a Secure Treatment Facility, Enhance Data Sharing Among First Responders, Strengthen Volume Dealer Law to Include Fentanyl
ANNAPOLIS, MD — Governor Larry Hogan and Lt. Governor Boyd Rutherford today unveiled a series of executive actions and proposed legislation to continue the administration’s aggressive fight against the heroin and opioid crisis. The governor also authorized the Attorney General to file suit against select opioid manufacturers and distributors on the grounds that they have misled the public and helped to create the addiction crisis gripping Maryland and the nation.
“As the first governor in the country to declare a true state of emergency in response to the opioid epidemic, I am committed to doing everything in our power to bring those responsible for this scourge to justice and prevent future victims,” said Governor Hogan.
In his directive to Attorney General Brian Frosh authorizing the possible suit, the governor stipulated that 100 percent of any proceeds recovered in the suit must be directed toward innovative and new opioid treatment, prevention, and education programs.
In addition to the legal action, the governor also announced several new initiatives to build on the administration’s treatment, prevention, and enforcement priorities:
To transform treatment for Maryland’s inmate population and enable many low-level offenders to turn their lives around, Governor Hogan announced that the administration will conduct a feasibility study on converting a portion of the former Baltimore City Men’s Detention Center into a therapeutic detention facility to provide treatment for incarcerated individuals with substance use disorders and other behavioral health ailments. Data shows that approximately 60 percent of the jail population in Baltimore suffers from a substance use disorder, and 30 percent are suffering from mental illness.
“Our system of justice must hold criminals who traffic deadly drugs into our communities accountable for the destruction they cause, but we must draw a distinction between high-level dealers and nonviolent users who are struggling with addiction,” said Lt. Governor Rutherford.
The study will be performed by a consultant selected by the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services, Maryland Department of Health, and the Governor’s Office of Crime Control and Prevention. This initiative is made possible by the Hogan administration’s swift action during the governor’s first year in office to close the notorious Baltimore City Men’s Detention Center after decades of calls from the community to do so.
To further address the need to expand access to treatment, the Maryland Department of Health has submitted two pieces of legislation. The first, Substance Use Facilities and Programs - Certificate of Need - Repeal of Requirement, will eliminate the Certificate of Need (CON) requirement for capital projects that offer certain levels of inpatient treatment. The second, Health Occupations – Certified Supervised Counselors – Alcohol and Drug – Qualifications, will strengthen the behavioral health workforce by allowing applicants for certification as a certified supervised counselor for alcohol and drug treatment to use supervised work experience in lieu of an internship in order to satisfy certification requirements.
To further enhance the state’s prevention efforts, Governor Hogan will also introduce The Overdose Data Reporting Act to allow Emergency Medical Services (EMS) providers and law enforcement officers to input and share data about opioid overdoses. This enhanced data-sharing ability will enable first responders to track this information and allocate resources, including life-saving naloxone, in near real time to respond to an extremely potent batch of opioids in a specific area. The legislation will make Maryland one of 27 states and nearly 300 agencies to use this technology to inform first responders, identify national trends, and prevent overdose deaths.
Governor Hogan also announced legislation to bolster the state’s enforcement efforts by strengthening and expanding the state’s Volume Dealer Law, which allows for the prosecution of high-level drug traffickers who deal in large quantities of controlled substances. The bill will expand the law to include fentanyl and its analogs, which are currently causing the majority of unintentional overdoses in the state, and include additional penalties for those dealing five or more grams of this extremely lethal additive.
The legislation will also update the law to treat heroin consistent with its treatment of cocaine, and reduce the need for costly testing to determine the detailed composition of a drug by simplifying drug composition requirements for the law to apply.
On the first day of the 2018 session, the Hogan administration introduced emergency legislation to crack down on violent criminal networks that traffic these substances by strengthening Maryland’s gang statute to allow prosecutors to work across jurisdictional lines to build cases and take down gang enterprises.
“Ultimately all of these initiatives are about saving lives – that is the bottom line,” said Governor Hogan. “We look forward to working with members of the legislature to enact these common sense, bipartisan proposals as we continue to use all the tools at our disposal to combat this crisis and to save lives.”
In addition to the proposals announced today, the governor’s Fiscal Year 2019 budget continues to demonstrate a strong commitment to combating the opioid crisis. In addition to $159 million dedicated to non-Medicaid substance use disorder and addiction programs, it includes $13.7 million in new funding for the state’s response to the heroin and opioid epidemic. The budget also includes $3 million in grant funding for local boards of education to implement prevention and education programs, and provides $1.2 million to expand treatment programs and job readiness training for the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Corrections’ pre-release population, as well as 15 new positions at the Maryland Department of Health to assist inmates in applying for Medicaid eligibility prior to release. Finally, the governor’s capital budget provides funding for Helping Up Mission in Baltimore City and Westminster Rescue Mission in Carroll County to expand treatment services for women.
Governor Hogan declared a State of Emergency in response to the heroin and opioid crisis, and established the Opioid Operational Command Center (OOCC) to lead the state’s response and coordinate directly with all 24 local jurisdictions. The OOCC launched Before It’s Too Late, the state’s effort to bring awareness to the heroin and opioid epidemic-and to mobilize resources for effective prevention, treatment, and recovery. Marylanders grappling with a substance use disorder can find help at BeforeItsTooLateMD.org and 1-800-422-0009, the state crisis hotline.