REISTERSTOWN, Md. (AP) — Gov. Larry Hogan declared a state of emergency Wednesday in response to Maryland's continuing problems with heroin and opioid addiction.
The Republican governor announced $50 million in new funding over five years to help support the state's prevention, recovery and enforcement efforts.
"We need to treat this crisis the exact same way we would treat any other state emergency," Hogan said. "With this continuing threat increasing at such an alarming rate, we must allow for rapid coordination with our state and local emergency management teams."
The emergency declaration is the result of the initial findings of a command center the administration created in January to spur greater collaboration among state agencies, the governor said.
"We must cut through the red tape so that we are empowering the important work being done in our many state agencies and at the local level all across our state," Hogan said. "This is about taking an all-hands-on-deck approach so that together we can save the lives of thousands of Marylanders."
In January, Hogan announced three measures he is supporting in this year's legislative session to help battle drug addiction.
One would prevent doctors from prescribing more than seven days' worth of opioid painkillers during a patient's first visit. Another measure would create a new felony charge for people convicted of illegally selling opioids or opioid analogues that result in the death of a user. A separate bill would authorize the collection and review of non-fatal overdose data to make it easier for people to fill prescriptions for naloxone, a drug that can counteract the effects of an opioid overdose.
Members of the General Assembly also are proposing a variety of measures aimed at addressing the problem, which is nationwide.
Across the country, more than 52,000 people died of a drug overdose in 2015, and roughly two-thirds of them had used prescription opioids like OxyContin or Vicodin or illegal drugs like heroin, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Those overdoses have jumped 33 percent in the past five years alone, with some states reporting the death toll had doubled or more.