ANNAPOLIS — The Maryland Department of Health and Opioid Operational Command Center has released its 2019 second quarter report, which shows that Maryland has experienced its first six-month decline in the total number of opioid-related fatalities in at least a decade. Release of the report comes during National Recovery Month, a time to raise awareness of substance use disorders and the resources available to end addiction.

In the first two quarters of 2019, there were 1,182 total unintentional intoxication deaths in the state — an 11.3% decrease as compared to the same period in 2018. Of that total, 89.7% (1,060) were opioid-related deaths, primarily attributable to fentanyl. Opioid-related deaths declined by 11.1%.

However, studies indicate prescription opioid-related deaths are still a serious concern — since 2011 the number of deaths related strictly to prescription opioids in the state has not fallen below 150. Those statistics have been on a gradual decline though since 2017.

Cocaine deaths in conjunction with opioid use are down from last year (2018), but with that exception are still an upward trend over the last decade. Comparing the periods of January through June 2018 and 2019, the number of cocaine-related deaths decreased 16.6%. The report indicates the increase in cocaine-related deaths over the last several years can be attributed to cocaine combined with opioids, which were found in approximately 90% of cocaine-related deaths so far in 2019.

“Though the continued decline in fatal overdoses is welcome news, the heroin and opioid epidemic remains a crisis and we will continue to respond with all the tools at our disposal,” said Governor Larry Hogan. “The fight against heroin and opioid overdoses has torn apart communities and families throughout our state and across the nation. Together, we can and we must do more in order to save the lives of thousands of Marylanders.”

In 2017, Hogan became the first governor in the nation to declare a State of Emergency in response to the heroin, opioid and fentanyl crisis. The Hogan administration has implemented a number of groundbreaking policies related to the opioid epidemic, including the expansion of the Prescription Drug Monitoring Program and the provision of millions in grant funding to local health departments and treatment programs. It also established the Maryland Heroin and Opioid Emergency Task Force and the Inter-Agency Heroin and Opioid Coordinating Council, both led by Lieutenant Governor Boyd K. Rutherford.

As the state continues to focus on the opioid epidemic, “We are confident that the right strategies are in place to advance Gov. Hogan’s policy priorities of prevention and education, enforcement and public safety, and treatment and recovery,” said Steve Schuh, executive director of the Opioid Operational Command Center.

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