Opioid town hall in Baltimore: Stopping the growth of the addiction crisis

Host Eric Bolling leads an important discussion about the opioid epidemic , sponsored by Liberty University (Sinclair Broadcast Group)

BALTIMORE (SBG) - Sinclair Broadcast Group, WBFF, and Liberty University teamed up to host the sixth installment in a series of town halls to help raise awareness of the country's opioid epidemic.

Eric Bolling moderated the event from Baltimore as part of the "Our Voice, Our Future" series.

He and his wife Adrienne have been outspoken activists in the battle against opioid addiction following the loss of their 19-year old son to an accidental fentanyl overdose in 2017.

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The goal of the discussion was help raise awareness, as well as explore possible solutions and take a closer look at those who bear responsibility for the epidemic.

A recent study by the National Safety Council found Americans are now more likely to die from an opioid overdose than in a motor vehicle accident.

Bolling was joined by several special guests including Governor Larry Hogan of Maryland, who declared a State of Emergency in response to the opioid epidemic in both 2017 and 2018.

Together, Governor Hogan and Lt. Governor Boyd Rutherford have introduced legislation, initiatives, and funding to help combat the ongoing crisis in Maryland.

As a response to the State of Emergency in 2017, the Opioid Operational Command Center (OOCC) was established to bring together state and local partners to support prevention, treatment, and enforcement efforts.

Another guest included Director of the United States Office of National Drug Control Policy James Carroll. He spoke about his office’s dedication to saving lives and how it is using $34 billion in funding to combat the opioid crisis.

Carroll also mentioned how his office has a $1.5 million award for the people who are able to develop better technology that can be used at the border and at mail facilities to detect fentanyl when it comes in.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, 70,237 drug overdose deaths occurred across the United States in 2017, with 47,600 involving the use of opioids.

Baltimore has the highest death rate in Maryland for unintentional overdose deaths. In 2017, out of 761 drug and alcohol-related intoxication deaths in Baltimore, 692 were opioid-related deaths.

In 2017, Maryland had 2,009 opioid-related deaths out of 2,282 drug and alcohol-related deaths, according to the Maryland Department of Health.

Fentanyl, a synthetic opioid that is 30 to 50 times more powerful than heroin, has caused more Maryland opioid-related deaths than prescription opioids and heroin in recent years.

Nick Albaugh, Director of Amatus Health, has found opioids to be the most addictive substances among drug users.

Steve Schuh, Executive Director of the Maryland Opioid Command Center, spoke how Maryland has been affected by opioids, especially fentanyl.

New Baltimore City Police Chief Michael Harrison spoke about the correlation between drugs and violence. He also mentioned how residents of Baltimore are tired of drugs being in their neighborhoods.

In the first quarter of 2015 there was an 178 percent increase in overdose deaths associated with fentanyl in Baltimore, according to the Baltimore City Health Department.

Their response to the opioid epidemic strategy features three main goals:

1. Save lives with naloxone

2. Increase access to on-demand, evidence based treatment

3. Fight the stigma of addiction through education

Through the leadership of Dr. Leana Wen, Baltimore City Health Commissioner, Baltimore became the first city in Maryland to increase access to naloxone. Dr. Wen issued an order that allows residents the ability to buy naloxone from a pharmacy without a doctor's prescription or training certificate.

Baltimore is working to create a 24/7 behavioral health emergency department. It is beginning that process with the state's first Stabilization Center, a place for individuals who are under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol to receive short-term medical and social interventions. which is set to open Spring 2019.

Sinclair Broadcast Group remains committed to fighting the opioid crisis, and "Our Voice, Our Future" seeks to raise awareness and reduce the stigma of addiction while exploring solutions to the drug crisis and holding accountable those who bear responsibility.

Thursday's town hall was streamed live on all of Sinclair's websites and it will re-air on multiple Sinclair stations.

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