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New Baltimore initiative hopes to more closely involve hospitals in fight against opioid epidemic

Baltimore officials will announce an initiative on Monday meant to give the city's 11 hospitals incentive to play a bigger role in ending the opioid epidemic.

The plan calls for implementing best practices for hospitals to use when they are faced with patients who overdose or have problems with opioid use. The city will publicly recognize hospitals that follow these guidelines.

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The hospitals will be scored on their efforts to provide treatment for patients who are addicted and on how well they distribute naloxone, the drug that reverses an opioid overdose and has saved the lives of many. The hospitals will also be judged on whether they connect patients with support services and monitor doctors to ensure they are not over-prescribing opioids.

The new program is based on an initiative of Rhode Island, one of the few places nationwide where opioid deaths declined last year.

"Hospitals alone cannot end this epidemic, but it cannot be ended without them," Dr. Leana Wen, Baltimore's health commissioner, said in a statement. "Addiction is a disease and treatment exists. Together, we will build upon the work that's already been done and make Baltimore City a national model for treating addiction alongside every other disease. That means treating addiction in our traditional health care institutions, including hospitals."

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