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Maryland deaths from prescription opioids could outpace those caused by heroin for first time in 10 years

Phil Davis, The Baltimore Sun on

Published in News & Features

But the pandemic and the resulting emergency orders by Hogan and others turbocharged the use of remote evaluation and prescribing. And it brought in new users.

Gaudenzia began offering outpatient treatment and started programs for patients being treated with medications such as methadone and buprenorphine, while reducing the use of live-in, abstinence-only programs. Baltimore’s behavioral health agency handed out laptops to local treatment providers to help them stay connected with patients.

For Smith, having outpatient programs available at Gaudenzia helped keep him in treatment. He completed the program in September 2020 and now works at the program’s Crownsville location, helping with daily events like group sessions and intake.

He said that when Gaudenzia and other providers cut back on in-person services, videoconferencing helped keep him on a path to recovery during the heart of the lockdowns last year.

“It helped tremendously because we were in a group form again,” Smith said. “With no more outside meetings and everything ... it really played a significant part.”

 

However, while officials touted their successes in adapting to delivering their services through telehealth, they’re also worried about what goes by the wayside now that Hogan’s emergency orders have expired.

One order that allowed for treatment programs to provide intensive outpatient services via telehealth expired Aug. 15. According to Michael Ricci, Hogan’s spokesman, it was one of several orders extended past the original end of July 1 as a grace period. He did not respond to a question about whether Hogan considered a further extension.

Blalock said she had wanted Hogan to extend the order, as it allowed for treatment programs to reach clients in more remote areas. She added that while people in northern Anne Arundel County and Baltimore City “can jump on a bus to get to an outpatient clinic,” services are more limited in southern Anne Arundel County, which is more rural.

“While the pandemic has gotten better, it hasn’t gone away,” she said.

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