Dr. Leana Wen, Baltimore City health commissioner, signed a new standing prescription for naloxone that allows residents to acquire the opioid overdose antidote without first getting trained to use the drug.
The move, which effectively makes naloxone available over-the-counter, reflects changes in state law from the Heroin and Opioid Prevention Effort, or HOPE Act, recently passed by the General Assembly.
Officials said the training wasn't cumbersome but paperwork for it was inhibiting outreach workers' ability to get naloxone in the hands of more residents.
An estimated 20,000 people in Baltimore use heroin and others misuse prescription painkillers, all opioids that contributed to 481 fatal overdoses in the city in the first nine months of 2016.
Wen first issued a standing order for naloxone in 2015, ahead of a similar state order, but training was required in person or online. About 23,000 people have since been trained and officials say they have used the drug 800 times to save someone from overdose.
Wen said the effort is a stopgap to keep opioid users alive long enough to get treatment.