Maryland must act to turn tide on overdose deaths

opioid_RIP_toon.jpgProgressive Maryland today joined the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (NCADD) Maryland, Communities United and Baltimore Harm Reduction Coalition to demand that the state, starting with the General Assembly, act quickly and thoroughly to combat the rising tide of overdose deaths in the state. Three bills awaiting action in the Assembly session can make significant progress in saving lives from the overdose epidemic in our communities.

CONTACT: Christianne Marguerite | [email protected] |

Maryland Must Act to Turn Tide on Overdose Deaths

As CDC Reports Record Number of Overdose Deaths, Advocates and Survivors of the Drug War Call on Maryland General Assembly to Invest in Evidence-Based Harm Reduction Solutions to Save Lives 

MARYLAND – Drug overdose deaths in the United States reached an all-time high in 2021. According to provision data from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 105,752 Americans lost their lives to a preventable overdose, a 16 percent increase from 2020. In response to this troubling trend, The National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (NCADD) Maryland, Communities United, Baltimore Harm Reduction Coalition and Progressive Maryland released today the following statement:

“The latest drug overdose numbers released by the CDC are a dark reminder of how much further we have to go to curb the overdose epidemic and save lives. A preventable overdose took the lives of 105,752 of our friends, neighbors and loved ones in 2021, a 16 percent increase from the previous year. Behind every overdose death is a family and an entire community that grieves while hoping for something better. 

“For too long, we have relied on criminalization, over-incarceration and other Drug War-era tactics that have failed to even slow the overdose epidemic and instead are driving preventable deaths to an all-time high. We urge Maryland lawmakers to break from the status quo, abandon the Drug War-era mentality, and invest in evidence-based harm reduction programs that are rooted in public health to save lives.” 

In order to address record-breaking drug overdoses in Maryland, NCADD, Communities United, and Progressive Maryland are asking the state to:

 

  • Expand Maryland’s Good Samaritan Law by passing HB190. No one should be in a position to choose between their own freedom and their loved one’s life. H.B. 190 would build on the state’s current Good Samaritan law in two ways: (1) clarifying that the victim of the drug-related overdose is provided the same immunity from arrest, charge, and prosecution as the person calling 911; and (2) expanding the offenses that people are immune from to include all misdemeanor offenses, as well as possession with intent to distribute (not volume or kingpin dealing). 

 

  • Decriminalize Drug Paraphernalia by passing HB481/SB509 to amend the classification of certain items used to ingest drugs, effectively decriminalizing the possession of items such as syringes and safer smoking kits. Police continue to use drug paraphernalia laws to harass and intimidate people who use drugs – creating a disconnect with the individuals most at risk for overdose and in need of support. Decriminalization would remove penalties. In addition, Bill sponsor Delegate David Moon, Baltimore Harm Reduction Coalition and other advocates are seeking an amendment to the bill that will expand protections to include clauses regarding decriminalizing possession of large quantities of paraphernalia for delivery and distribution. Secondary distribution increases access to these life-saving supplies, which is particularly necessary to serve people who are isolated due to stigma, COVID-19, limited mobility, etc. 

 

  • Decriminalize possession of small amounts of drugs too small to merit consideration in a court of law by passing HB1054/SB0784.  Problematic substance use is a chronic disease and one that needs treatment and support rather than incarceration and isolation. Decades of research from around the world show that decriminalization doesn’t increase rates of drug use or crime – but it can drastically reduce addiction, overdose, and HIV. Under this new law, a person possessing small amounts of drugs for personal use would be sent to civil rather than criminal court, and it would also shield the records of those who complete drug treatment or education programs.

 



About Progressive Maryland

Progressive Maryland is a statewide nonprofit advocacy organization promoting racial, social, economic, health and environmental justice. With over 120,000 individual members, supporters, and organizational affiliates statewide, we are leading the fight for progressive change in Maryland through grassroots organizing, public education, and legislative advocacy. 

About NCADD Maryland 

NCADD-Maryland, formed in 1988, is a statewide advocacy organization that provides education, information, help and hope in the fight against chronic, often fatal diseases of alcoholism, drug addiction, and co-occurring mental health disorders. NCADD-Maryland devotes its resources to promoting prevention, intervention, harm reduction, research and treatment of the disease of addiction and is respected as a leader in the field throughout the state.

About Baltimore Harm Reduction Coalition

Founded in 2011, Baltimore Harm Reduction Coalition (BHRC) is a community-based organization that mobilizes community members for the health, dignity, and safety of people targeted by the war on drugs and anti sex-worker policies; we advocate for harm reduction as a part of a broader movement for social justice. We implement public health services and advocate for policies to expand harm reduction in Baltimore and across the state of Maryland. We believe in the value and dignity of all people and that we have a duty to assist in each other’s safety.