Since day one, the Hogan-Rutherford Administration has been committed to shining a spotlight on the heroin and opioid crisis and to using every tool at our disposal to bring a heightened level of awareness to this threat, which is tearing apart families, devastating communities and killing more and more Marylanders every day. Since taking office we have committed more than $800 million toward fighting the heroin and opioid epidemic and substance use disorders.
We are seeing success on the prescriber side as hospitals and medical providers have been driving innovative solutions to reduce inappropriate prescribing. The Prescription Drug Monitoring Program in Maryland is ensuring that prescribers are tracking opioid prescriptions and able to identify patients who might be at risk for addiction. We are seeing a reduction in the number of deaths from prescription opioids for the first time since 2012. However, overdose deaths due to illicit fentanyl remain high. The latest data shows that in Maryland, almost 80 percent of all overdose deaths from January through September 2018 involved fentanyl.
As this crisis evolves, so must our response to it and we cannot do it alone. Every day, we are staying focused and resolute on our three-pronged strategy — prevention and education, enforcement and expanding access to treatment and recovery.
This includes focusing on treating a vulnerable population in our state — those leaving the correctional system, jail, or prison — and the Maryland Department of Health and Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services are working together on solutions.
The Maryland Department of Health works to ensure Maryland Medicaid services are available to all those who qualify (“Maryland made a plan to help people leaving prison get drug treatment — but it never used it,” Mar. 4). An individual must complete a full Maryland Medicaid application before ever becoming eligible for presumptive eligibility, which is designed to be used as the last resort when enrolling individuals. If the individual’s application for Maryland Medicaid is not accepted, that is the point when a presumptive eligibility application would be initiated. Presumptive eligibility allows individuals coverage for up to 60 days while they gather the needed documents to complete their Maryland Medicaid application (“Get those released from prison on Medicaid quicker,” Mar. 4).
Once the individual who received presumptive eligibility obtains the needed information for their Maryland Medicaid application, they submit the documents and their case is completed. Currently, 93 percent of Maryland Medicaid applications are processed within 24 hours. No individuals from the detention centers or parole and probation centers have needed to utilize presumptive eligibility because their Maryland Medicaid applications were approved. In 2018, the Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services (DPSCS) enrolled an average of 217 exiting inmates or detainees per month in Medicaid, a total of 2,387. The pace is significantly higher than the 2,675 — or 150 a month — the department enrolled in the first two years of eligibility.
All individuals that have been registered through the local health departments have been able to enroll in Maryland Medicaid and have not needed to take advantage of presumptive eligibility, which is the ultimate goal.
The program was always intended to be a safety net, with full Medicaid as the main goal, as reported in a previous Baltimore Sun article. It is just one more tool in our toolbox to fight the heroin and opioid epidemic.
Stephen T. Moyer and Robert R. Neall
The writers are, respectively, Maryland’s secretaries of the departments of Public Safety and Correctional Services and Health and Mental Hygiene.