ONE YEAR LATER: Vertava Health Asks “Where Are They Now?”
An Update on the Progress of the Mid-Atlantic States
(June 30, 2016) – Over a year ago, Vertava Health took to the streets to bring you the most up-to-the-minute, detailed accounts of our nation’s drug epidemic state by state. We spoke with the nation’s top leaders in addiction, recovery, law enforcement and state government to keep readers informed on each state’s progress in battling an epidemic that is killing 100 people a day in the United States. This week we checked in with six states in the Mid-Atlantic area to give you a progress report on the efforts they were initiating and enforcing when we spoke to them last.
Last year, we took you to New York State where two people had died and 12 overdosed over the period of two weeks in a small town called Oneonta from a single batch of heroin laced with a drug called Fentanyl. Just yesterday, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced $10.5 million over five years to support six new Recovery Community and Outreach Centers. “Addiction devastates the lives of far too many New Yorkers and their families,” says Governor Cuomo. “These new centers will provide the necessary resources and support to those seeking recovery and will help us build a stronger and healthier New York for all.” You can read the Governor’s full statement here. New York State Assemblywoman of the 43rd Assembly District, Diana C. Richardson criticized lawmakers this week, saying $25 million out of a $100 billion budget is not enough to address the issue of drug addiction in the state. “I found out early on in life that if you want to find where their principles lie, follow the money,” Honorable Richardson told the assembly. “Twenty-five million is a joke and a slap in the face to the cries of the public.” You can watch her speech here. Governor Cuomo and other leaders reached an agreement on a plan to combat the opioid epidemic by requiring insurance companies that previously blocked patients from receiving care for opioid addiction without prior approval to provide coverage up front for inpatient services. The bills would also cut recommendations for prescriptions down to a seven day supply, vs. the 30 day limit on them now. That legislation is expected to pass this week. New York City is currently considering hosting a supervised injection facility, designed to give heroin users a clean place to inject. Proponents say it cuts down on overdose deaths and the spread of harmful transmissions like Hepatitis C and HIV. Critics say it is a form of enabling. The New York State Senate passed two bills to cut down on addiction among minors. A bill sponsored by Senator Fred Akshar (R-C-I, Colesville) would require health practitioners to educate and receive consent from legal guardians before prescribing opioids to minors. Another bill prohibits free distribution of electronic cigarettes to minors. Sponsored by Senator Fred Akshar (R-C-I, Colesville), the legislation will require that health practitioners treating minors educate and receive consent from the minor’s’ legal guardian before prescribing opioids. “Today, parents face more and more challenges trying to keep their kids safe,” says Senator Akshar. “These measures look out for our young people and give parents some much-needed assistance in preventing addiction early.”
Last year in Pennsylvania, we told you about a suggested marketing strategy on behalf of drug dealers who were using overdose deaths to advertise the drugs they had for sale. Last week, the Pennsylvania Medical Society held a news conference at the Capitol, where the State House of Representatives and Governor Tom Wolf agreed that a Special Session of the general assembly should be called to work on the Commonwealth’s opioid addiction crisis. Special Sessions of the legislature are rare and are only used when the most troubling issues need real change. According to the Society, opioid use and addiction is one of the most troubling issues facing the state. Statistically, Pennsylvania holds the distinction of being #1 in the country for overdose deaths for males age 12-24. They hope to turn that around by addressing the crisis. This Opioid Crisis Special Session will focus the legislature on the epidemic. In May, the Pennsylvania Medical Society kicked off an initiative – Opioids for Pain: Be Smart. Be Safe. Be Sure. – to help physicians and patients. Included in the initiative are patient education and a physician call-to-action to help both patients and doctors be smart, safe and sure when they need to use opioids.
Last year we explored the New Jersey heroin epidemic, that was killing several in the state. Since the state enacted a Good Samaritan Law, allowing more people access to the opioid overdose antidote Naloxone, Governor Chris Christie’s Opioid Task Force Efforts have saved over 7500 lives by access to Narcan alone. More in the state are calling for the de-stigmatization of those battling addiction and in recovery, while trying to increase accessibility to the drug.
In Delaware, the state was seeing an overdose about every other day in the state, and law enforcement agencies had placed permanent drop boxes throughout the state to try to combat the epidemic. The state could see up to $4 million over the next two years to help expand access to opioid addiction treatment, the White House announced this month. Since last year, 125 people died of heroin overdoses in the state. 83 were traced back to heroin, 42 were tied to fentanyl, and an additional 105 died of prescription drug and cocaine overdoses, according to Delawareonline. Just this past year, the city of Dover saw heroin seizures increased by 871%. Because of this, the police department has adopted an “Angel” policy, where they will take people into treatment vs. arresting them. Vertava Health partnered with the Gloucester Police Department last year, which was the first of its kind, spreading to multiple law enforcement agencies throughout the U.S.
Last year we took you to Maryland, where the state’s overdose deaths rose 95% in just three years. Researchers at University of Maryland in Baltimore are busy developing a synthetic opioid called UMB425 which is years away from approved human testing. The drug is a pain reliever that creators say has an extremely lower possibility of addiction. Of the three primary opioid receptors in the brain (mu, delta and kappa), most opioids act on mu, which can cause dependence. UMB425 acts on mu and delta, which experts say reduces the chances for addiction. You can read more about UMB425 here. Overdoses are still on the rise in Maryland. For the first quarter of 2016, there has already been 147 heroin-related deaths in the Baltimore area, with 383 deaths statewide.
We took you to Washington, D.C. last year where we Periscoped the Facing Addiction Rally, attended by thousands, and talked with Dr. Oz about the epidemic. The charity Horses Healing Hearts, which helps the children of parents battling addiction through interaction with horses, is now treating more and more children, and is asking for assistance programs like themselves to be included in the recently passed Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA). CARA, which has been passed by both the House and the Senate and will provide millions in assistance all across the country, has now been sent to President Obama’s desk awaiting his signature.