Opioid epidemic puts strain on Baltimore budget, Naloxone availability

Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Maryland Rep. Elijah Cummings from Baltimore are working on legislation that requires the federal government to provide $10 billion to help fight the opioid crisis.

The bill is an attempt to help slow the number of overdoses that are plaguing cities like Baltimore. The funds would provide a cash injection to the local and state governments that are struggling to maintain treatment services.

The bill, called the Comprehensive Addiction Resources Emergency Act, or CARE, is in the early stages. Cummings and Warren are planning to tour states with the highest numbers of opioid overdoses to drum up support.

Drug overdoses killed 64,000 Americans in 2016, with opioids accounting for nearly two-thirds of the deaths.

Baltimore is struggling to keep up with the pace of overdose antidotes needed in the city. Reports claim that the financial squeeze is leaving many cities without the means to pay for naloxone or medical supplies.

Rising overdose rates are leaving Baltimore and other cities without the funding to provide overdose kits to those in need. The health department claims that they could hand out hundreds of kits, but they often have less than three dozen kits on hand.

Synthetic overdose cases, which include overdoses from fentanyl, are causing Baltimore to ration their supplies. Inhaler stockpiles are dwindling, with the city handing out 19,000 doses of naloxone in 2016 and over25,000 kits in 2017.

Baltimore’s Health Commissioner claims that they must count the amount of naloxone they have left and make the decision on who will receive the life-saving medicine.

U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Jerome Adams issued a health advisory earlier in the month calling for more people to carry Naloxone. The advisory is the first on a national sale in 13 years. Dr. Adams is also calling for federal funds to be increased to provide local antidote access in cities.

Narcan offers discounts of $50 to first community organizations and first responders on a two-dose carton of the life-saving inhaler, bringing the price down to $75 per carton. Kaleo’s Evzio auto-injector also offers a big discount on a box of two doses. The two-dose box costs $3,800, up from near $700 in 2014. A new initiative will allow government agencies to purchase a box of kits for $360 each.

Studies are showing another growing concern for health officials. Synthetic opioids are proving harder to reverse, with naloxone causing first responders to have to use two or three doses to restore a person’s respiration.

Many officials are calling on the Trump Administration to negotiate on behalf of local governments to bring the price of naloxone down. Officials claim that “we are in the middle of a national epidemic.”

Baltimore lost nearly 700people to overdose deaths in 2016. The figure is nearly double the amount of people that died from homicides during the same year. Los Angeles lost over 2,200 residents to overdose deaths in 2016.

Baltimore has a “standing order” allowing naloxone to be available without a prescription to all residents.