In Maryland this week, Gov. Larry Hogan signed an executive order declaring a state of emergency over the state’s heroin, opioid, and fentanyl crisis.
It is a move other states facing the same epidemic will no doubt be watching.
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The declaration frees up resources and helps better coordinate services and response from state and local jurisdictions. Hogan also announced $50 million in new funding will be dedicated to the crisis.
“We need to treat this crisis the exact same way we would treat any other state emergency,” Gov. Hogan said in a media release. “With this continuing threat increasing at such an alarming rate, we must allow for rapid coordination with our state and local emergency teams. 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.”
“[There’s] probably no more important endeavor that I’ve been involved in my career in emergency management than what we’re facing,” said one Maryland official.
The ultimate goal, Hogan and other state officials said, is saving lives.
“We have people dying every day in this state right now. [There’s] probably no more important endeavor that I’ve been involved in my career in emergency management than what we’re facing,” said Clay Stamp, who will lead the emergency coordination around the state, WBAL TV reported.
There were 1,089 opioid-related deaths in Maryland in 2015, according to state health officials. The numbers for 2016 aren’t officially in yet, but were said to be upwards of 50 percent higher than the year before.
Maryland isn’t alone in taking drastic measures to try to save its residents from use, abuse, and — tragically and increasingly — death due to overdose. The governor of Alaska weeks ago declared opioid abuse a public health disaster, and former Gov. Deval Patrick of Massachusetts declared a public health emergency in 2014 over the growing heroin epidemic then.
Legislators in Florida and other states are also calling the crisis a state of emergency and requesting funds to address the needs of emergency responders and families seeking help.