By Bill Turque
REISTERSTOWN, Md. — Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan on Wednesday escalated his administration’s response to the opioid-addiction crisis, declaring a state of emergency and committing an additional $50 million over the next five years to beef up enforcement, prevention and treatment services.
Hogan (R) signed an executive order calling for the state of emergency, an instrument many jurisdictions use to coordinate anti-opioid and heroin strategies. The action fulfills a campaign promise he made in 2014 but temporarily shelved after taking office in favor of other legislative and executive initiatives.
The governor, who lost a cousin to addiction years ago, said the declaration underscores what he described as “an all-hands-on-deck approach” to growing rates of heroin, opioid and fentanyl use.
“The reality is that this threat is rapidly escalating,” Hogan said, appearing with Lt. Gov. Boyd Rutherford (R) and a large contingent of state officials at the command center of the Maryland Emergency Management Agency outside Baltimore.
Heroin and fentanyl, a powerful synthetic opioid, killed 1,468 Maryland residents in the first nine months of 2016, up 62 percent from the same period in 2015, according to state data. Many of those who overdosed initially abused prescription painkillers and other opioids. The trends are part of a nationwide opioid epidemic.