The Opioid Operational Command Center and the Maryland Department of Health have released their quarterly report on the opioid crisis in Maryland for the third quarter of 2019. The report includes preliminary data for unintentional drug- and alcohol-related intoxication deaths for the period between January and September 2019. The report also provides a summary of the state’s annual strategic plan for the heroin and opioid crisis and includes information on the grant programs that the OOCC administers to support Maryland’s fight against the epidemic.
From January through September of 2019, there were 1,574 deaths related to opioids in Maryland. Opioid deaths accounted for 88.7 percent of the 1,774 total unintentional intoxication deaths during this same period.
When compared to the first nine months of 2018, opioid-related deaths declined by 4.8% percent, and total unintentional intoxication deaths were down by 4.1 percent.
“The third-quarter data show that we must remain completely dedicated to this cause. While opioid-related fatalities have fallen from their all-time highs, they continue to represent an unprecedented threat to Maryland’s citizens – a threat that we are working overtime to neutralize,” said Executive Director Steve Schuh of the OOCC.
The state is addressing the opioid crisis through efforts in the areas of Prevention & Education, Enforcement & Public Safety, and Treatment & Recovery. In addition to overseeing the distribution of approximately $10 million in general-fund grants each year, the OOCC works closely with each of Maryland’s 24 local jurisdictions to coordinate response efforts and ensure that best practices and other informational resources are in place and working effectively. This coordinated response is outlined in the state’s annual strategic plan for the opioid crisis, entitled Maryland’s Inter-Agency Opioid Coordination Plan. Additionally, the OOCC has cataloged 129 model programs from around the state in the Opioid Use Disorder Program Inventory, which is made available to all local jurisdictions.
There were 1,436 fentanyl-related deaths in the first nine months of 2019, representing a 1.1 percent decrease over the same time period last year. Fentanyl was involved in over 93 percent of all opioid-related deaths during this period.
“Fentanyl is a lethal drug often involved in fatalities. The situation has become extremely complex since people often use multiple substances, such as fentanyl in combination with cocaine. Thus far in 2019, there have been more fatalities involving cocaine than heroin,” said Secretary of Health Robert R. Neall.
Cocaine is the second-most prevalent drug involved with overdose deaths in Maryland. There were 643 cocaine-related deaths in Maryland between January and September of 2019. When compared to the same period of 2018, the number of cocaine-related deaths decreased by eight percent. The general increase in cocaine-related deaths over the last several years can be attributed to the use of cocaine in combination with opioids, which have been involved with approximately 90 percent of cocaine-related deaths so far in 2019.
Heroin-related deaths continued their recent downward trend. The 571 heroin-related deaths in Maryland between January and September of 2019 represent a 12.7 percent decrease when compared with the same period in 2018. Prescription opioid-related deaths fell by 2.5 percent in the first nine months of 2019 when compared to the same period in 2018.
“Through collaboration and diligence, we have developed an effective response to the crisis in Maryland using resources from across the state and employing multiple strategies,” Secretary Neall added. “Although we can’t let up on our efforts, we are optimistic that the burden of this crisis will continue to decrease.”
The OOCC’s quarterly report can be found at www.BeforeItsTooLate.Maryland.gov.
Before It’s Too Late is the state’s effort to bring awareness to the opioid epidemic and to mobilize resources for effective prevention, enforcement and treatment. Marylanders struggling with a substance use disorder can find help at BeforeItsTooLateMD.org; through our state’s crisis hotline, CALL 211, PRESS 1; or by texting their ZIP code to 898-211.