PARIS WILL TAKE A HANDS-ON APPROACH TO TACKLING THE OPIOID EPIDEMIC
As a social worker, Paris has experience working with individuals suffering from substance use disorders. She understands that for the 20,000 or more heroin users in Baltimore, (FN21) addiction is a disease. From 2016 to 2018, Baltimore lost more than 2,000 people to opioid related overdose deaths; in 2018 alone, 814 people died in out City from opioid overdose, an unconscionable death toll. (FN22) Baltimore has been called “ground zero” for the national opioid epidemic, reflecting a shift in consciousness about opioids from being a problem afflicting rural areas of poverty to being one where urban communities are seeing some of the worst impacts.
We are failing when we lose so many people a year to overdose deaths. We need a City leader who will take bold actions to address this serious health epidemic that is ravaging our communities. Paris is prepared to be that leader. She will not be afraid to pursue bold, progressive solutions that we know have been proven to work.
- Opening public health access sites in Baltimore City. Evidence compiled from around the world demonstrates that safe consumption sites (also known as safe injection facilities) are a proven solution to reducing illicit drug use and the crimes associated with it. The General Assembly has been working on this for several sessions, (FN23) and the Baltimore City State’s Attorney’s Office (FN24) and Baltimore Sun Editorial Board (FN25) have endorsed the idea. In a recent study, researchers conducted a cost-benefit analysis of opening a safe consumption site in Baltimore, and found that a single safe consumption site in Baltimore would save taxpayers an estimated $7.8 million per year by preventing overdose deaths, new HIV and hepatitis C infections, and expensive ambulance rides and emergency room visits, as well as by bringing lots more people into treatment. (FN26) By providing users a supervised place for drug use, safe consumption sites take drug use out of public spaces, which improves safety for users and communities alike. As Councilwoman Paris will:
- Work with community groups, public health professionals, advocates, and law enforcement and seek the support of the State’s Attorney’s Office, the Maryland Attorney General, and the Baltimore Police Department to develop a public health access site pilot for Baltimore City. This site will combine a safe consumption site with access to treatment and other interventions similar to those offered by Baltimore’s stabilization center. (FN27)
- Temporary Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT) task force. Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT) for opioid addiction – such as methadone and suboxone – is an evidence-based practice that has been medically proven to help people control their opioid addiction and cut mortality rates by more than half. (FN28) The stigma associated with the clinics providing MAT is a significant barrier to access to this kind of treatment. As Councilwoman, Paris will:
- Create a temporary MAT task force charged with proposing actions that can be taken to destigmatize medication assisted treatment and foster positive relationships between facilities and their host communities.
- Increase the substance use disorder provider workforce. We are in the midst of an acute workforce crisis among substance use disorder providers, largely because our society has not yet started treating substance use disorders like we treat other mental health disorders. As Councilwoman, Paris will:
- Continue her work (FN29) to grow the provider workforce by working with state and local partners to change regulations around Medicaid billing, leading the way to eliminate the disparity between the recognition of and reimbursement for addiction treatment and mental health treatment.
21 Baltimore Sun, Opioid overdose antidote now available without training in Baltimore
22 Maryland Department of Health, Unintentional Drug-and Alcohol-Related Intoxication Deaths in Maryland, 2018
23 Washington Post, Maryland needs safe injection sites
25 Baltimore Sun Editorial Board, Maryland can stop overdoses by allowing safe consumption sites
27 Baltimore City Health Department, Baltimore City Stabilization Center
29 Baltimore Sun, Md. students on opioid epidemic: We just want to help