Notes from Maryland Association of Counties (MACo) Conference and Opioid Epidemic Discussions
By Doris J. Cammack-Spencer, President and CEO and Katie Nash, The Greenwill Group
MACo had the largest turn-out in its history this month. With several events each evening, day sessions, and plenty of opportunities to catch up with elected officials from the local, state, and federal levels. Importantly, we use this time to chat with state cabinet officials and their staff – this is a great time to socialize and understand where we are headed for the upcoming session. There was incredible energy.
I was there and represented by our Lobbyists, Government Relations professionals, the Greenwill Group. Thanks to Katie Nash for her copious notes.
As you may have guessed, there was a lot of chatter about the 2018 election and the waterfall effect of folks moving up (and out). There is no doubt that the 2019 session will have a lot of new faces – similar to the freshman class of 2016. The only way to stay on top of this is to keep a constant presence and an ear to the ground. Folks are announcing/considering/talking about running on the “what-if” channel – if Senator X runs for higher office, then Delegates Y and Z will run for that seat, leaving those openings . . .
Among the topics discussed, was the opioid epidemic. There was a discussion Saturday and the presentation was provided the Director of the Maryland Emergency Management Agency, his deputy, and a Communications professional from the Governor’s Coordinator Office. Statistics were presented that shows there has been little progress in the last 12-18 months. The presenters offered a three-pronged approach and they “all equally important”: Prevention, Protection, Access to Treatment.
They cited their Opioid Operational Command Center as their focus – a program to coordinate state agencies. They discuss the fact that they have “mobilized” and that the counties are no responsible for determining the next steps. They are standing up teams to intervene.
MEMA Director Stamp mentioned $20M grant dollars with Secretary Schrader and the Behavioral Health team at DHMH, additional funding at Crime Control & Prevention. He cited
He said the Governor announced $22M to fight this, 80% of which will be directed to local government.
Director Stamp discussed treatment and how difficult it has been to move the ball forward to provide additional access to treatment: “No doubt we need to expand treatment options but they have been challenged because of stigma” and he expressed that things have been harder than he thought. He recognized that the “capacity we have is inadequate” and they are working on “identifying the capacity we do have”. He said they are “engaging in expanding capacity.”
They discussed the cycle of those in crisis and that they are working with Maryland Hospital Association for a discharge protocol to get folks treatment and transition them into detox beds asap, then to residential treatment. They mentioned peer to peer case management and offered that when folks are jailed they could go to drug court rather than jail. 11 jails are piloting a vivitriol treatment program and reviewing data to potentially expand that statewide.
With respect to law enforcement, he says “this is a supply and demand business”. Director Stamp discussed working with feds to disrupt the drug dealing cycle. The state has been lobbying the federal government to declare a state of emergency for the past 5 months and Stamp says they will be declaring soon to free up federal dollars.
Director Stamp asked that school superintendents step up and be leaders to improve education efforts. No jurisdictions are saying they have comprehensive programming in place. MEMA wants to hear from counties to prevent drug deaths. Insufficient funding is cited as a problem to reaching goals for reductions.
Birch Barron, Deputy Director for the Opioid Operational Command Center, told folks to sit down with their Emergency Managers and Health Officers, ask for an update on the what they are doing to achieve the goals for the Opioid Intervention. He also indicated he would appreciate an invitation to attend a County’s Intervention meeting.
Clay Stamp summarized:
1) Raise the conversation
2) Target our energy (tell the same story)
3) Coordinate and flow resources
4) Exploit the data and analytics
5) Push and support projects (“we’re going to be relentless”)
Director Stamp indicates that with respect to the national state of emergency, there will be funding made available:
– FEMA Stafford Act (funding
– National Emergency (Congress has to dedicate funding)
– Public Health Emergency (Congress has to fill the fund, cited as the most likely)
This is an ongoing public crisis – there are going to have to be additional conversations about this funding and how treatment options are expanded.
Cheryl Greene, member of the Chamber’s Legislative Committee, was appointed to the Chesapeake Beach/North Beach Opioid Committee.