Maryland Releases Heroin Task Force Final Report - WBOC-TV 16, Delmarvas News Leader, FOX 21 -

Maryland Releases Heroin Task Force Final Report

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Cover Photo of Final Report Cover Photo of Final Report

ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) - A Maryland task force on addressing rising heroin overdose deaths released 33 recommendations in its final report on Tuesday, including legislation to authorize needle-exchange programs in any county.
    
Gov. Larry Hogan formed the 11-member task force in February, soon after he entered office. The governor said he repeatedly heard from residents about heroin addiction during his campaign throughout the state.
    
"I look forward to reviewing their recommendations and taking the next steps to significantly reduce heroin and opioid abuse in Maryland," Hogan, a Republican, said in a statement.
    
Here is a look at the growing problem and some of the recommendations: For the complete report, click here.
    
SURGING FATALITIES
    
Heroin-related overdoses have increased 186 percent from the first six months of 2010, compared with the first half of 2015 in Maryland. In the first six months of this year, there were 340 deaths, compared to 119 in the first six months of 2010. The report says fatal heroin overdoses have been happening among all demographic groups.
    
TREATMENT
    
The task force recommends developing a plan to increase access to buprenorphine, a medication that helps control drug cravings and withdrawal symptoms. The panel also is recommending support services for pregnant women with substance abuse disorders, transitioning prison inmates and college students.
    
QUALITY OF CARE
    
Legislation is being recommended to require prescribers and dispensers to register with and use the state's Prescription Drug Monitoring Program with controlled substances that contain an opioid or a benzodiazephine, a type of medication known as tranquilizers. Another measure would authorize any county in the state to create an outreach program for education and connection to treatment, including the exchange of sterile syringes to people who inject drugs.
    
LAW ENFORCEMENT
    
The panel is recommending the state create a Maryland Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organization Statute to better model it after the federal law that aids in prosecuting drug traffickers. Another measure would create a crime for the direct or indirect distribution of heroin or fentanyl when its use is a contributing cause in an overdose. Fentanyl is a synthetic painkiller that can be mixed with heroin to produce a stronger high.

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