Baltimore rolls out new incentives, information-sharing program in bid to combat opioid crisis

Baltimore health officials announced a new citywide initiative with 11 hospitals Monday to better address the opioid crisis. (SeanPavonePhoto/Getty Images)

Baltimore hospitals will have new incentives for better addressing the opioid crisis—and sharing best practices with their counterparts across the city—under a new initiative announced by the city's top officials Monday.

Baltimore's 11 hospitals have agreed to participate in the program centered around identifying certain levels of responses to the opioid epidemic and recognizing hospitals that successfully implement them, the city said in a release. The effort was announced by Baltimore Mayor Catherine E. Pugh and Baltimore City Health Commissioner Leana Wen, M.D. 

“Hospitals alone cannot end this epidemic, but it cannot be ended without them,” Wen said in a statement. “Together, we will build upon the work that’s already been done and make Baltimore City a national model for treating addiction alongside every other disease. That means treating addiction in our traditional health care institutions, including hospitals.”

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Hospitals will be scored on their ability to provide treatment to patients who screen positive for addiction and distribute naloxone to patients. They will also be scored based on how well they connect patients with support services and ensure physicians are prescribing opioids appropriately, The Baltimore Sun reported

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The program design is based on a similar effort in Rhode Island, where overdose deaths declined in 2017.

Already, Baltimore has issued a standing order that provides a blanket prescription of naloxone to all city residents and announced plans to launch the state’s first stabilization center, which is a place for individuals who are under the influence to sober up and receive short-term medical and social interventions, by spring 2019.

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The city also piloted a program allowing those arrested for low-level drug offenses to choose treatment over incarceration and began targeting outreach and naloxone distribution to overdose “hotspots.”