DEA raid on Baltimore pain clinic prompts city health department to issue alert about possible increase in overdoses

Health officials warned a network of medical providers throughout Baltimore this week of a possible increase in drug overdoses and withdrawals among local patients after a pain management clinic in North Baltimore was raided and closed by federal and local law enforcement, officials confirmed Wednesday.

The Baltimore City Health Department heard Tuesday from local law enforcement officials that they had closed a health care provider's office, and health officials immediately began notifying hospital emergency rooms, emergency service providers, treatment centers and others.


"We are on high alert for instances that can lead to an increase in overdoses in the city," said Dr. Leana Wen, Baltimore City's health commissioner. "We monitor for all potential spikes."

Todd Edwards, a U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration spokesman, confirmed that his agency partnered with Baltimore police — as well as Anne Arundel County police and the office of Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh — to raid the Westside Medical Group offices of Dr. Kofi Shaw-Taylor in the 4400 block of Falls Road about 9 a.m. Tuesday.


Edwards referred all other questions to Frosh's office. Raquel Coombs, a spokeswoman for Frosh, said Shaw-Taylor was charged with Medicaid fraud, arraigned and released on bail. Coombs otherwise declined to comment on the case.

Online court records show Shaw-Taylor, 67, of Annapolis, was charged with a single count of defrauding the state health care system. He did not have an attorney listed and could not be reached for comment on Wednesday.

According to the Maryland Board of Physicians, Shaw-Taylor is a trained urologist with priviledges in several area hospitals, including Spring Grove Hospital in Catonsville, a state-owned psychiatric hospital sometimes used for those in the criminal justice system. Shaw-Taylor is also listed as a urology consultant on the state health department's website for the hospital.

The health department set up an alert system in response to the opioid epidemic that has lead to record overdose deaths in Baltimore, largely from heroin and fentanyl, a more powerful opioid often mixed with heroin unbeknownst to users.

Such an alert may be put out in response to a spike in overdoses in an area from particularly potent drugs or any action that potentially puts people in harm's way, such as when opioid users can't access drugs.

The health department alerted state officials, who also sent out information about the provider beyond the city.

Wen would not discuss Shaw-Taylor's case, or even the nature of the office's work. Edwards said it was a pain management clinic.

It was unclear how many patients the clinic served, but the health department wrote in its alert that a "significant number of patients struggling with addiction may be at an increased risk for overdose and/or go into withdrawal without medical support."


Wen would not confirm if her office had contacted any patients of the health care provider, though she said the health department has the authority in a medical emergency to do so.

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"The best thing we can do is alert our front-line providers to be prepared," she said. "Someone on opioids and then not on opioids and not in treatment will start withdrawing. We will start seeing people in withdrawal and overdose. This is the nature of addiction."

Her office said it and Behavioral Health System Baltimore were collaborating to "provide support to these vulnerable individuals in our community."

It said emergency departments might see an increase in overdoses and withdrawal symptoms, medical services may receive "more calls than usual" to respond to such incidents, and the Baltimore Crisis Response Inc. may "experience an increase in calls to the Crisis Information and Referral line from people in crisis or seeing help getting access to treatment."

It asked members of the Fentanyl Task Force to "reach out to partners to let them know of the possibility of overdose spikes" and for the Baltimore Police Department to "deploy officers trained and equipped with naloxone for patrol at least through next week, if possible."

T.J. Smith, a police spokesman, said the department received the health department's alert, and officers equipped with Narcan — which is used to stop overdoses — are in patrol.