Saturday, February 25, 2017

Please Show Your Support This Week

A Consumer-Driven Legislative Agenda for Maryland Families Impacted by Substance Use Disorder

F.A.C.E. Addiction Maryland Meeting on Monday, 2/27:
(Family Advocates Coalition to End Addiction in Maryland)
Time: 6:30 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.
Location:    Anne Arundel County Conference Room (Room 153) / House of Delegates / Bladen Street / Annapolis

Bill Hearings on Tuesday, 2/28:
1)  HB 515:  Treatment at All Maryland Hospitals
2)  HB 869:  Recovery Residence Rights Protection Act
3)  HB 550:  Keep the Door Open Act w/ Amendment
4)  HB 785:  Prohibition Against Denying State Funds to Recovery Residences

Bill Hearings on Wednesday, 3/1:
1)  SB 693:  Co-Prescribing Naloxone Saves Lives Act

Bill Hearings on Thursday, 3/2:
1)  SB 798:  Possession of Small Amounts of CDS Not a Crime --Referral to Treatment
2)  SB 267:  Adding 'Opiate Use Disorder' to Conditions that can be Treated with Medical Cannabis

Bill Hearings on Friday, 3/3:
1)  HB 487:  Adding 'Opiate Use Disorder' to Conditions that can be Treated with Medical Cannabis

Wednesday, February 22, 2017


What if this was your diagnosis: “A primary, chronic disease of brain reward, motivation, memory and related circuitry”, “characterized by distortions in thinking, feelings and perceptions, impairment in behavioral control, craving, diminished recognition of significant problems with one’s behaviors and interpersonal relationships, and a dysfunctional emotional response.” “Without treatment or engagement in recovery activities, [your disorder] is progressive and can result in disability or premature death.” --Definition of Substance Use Disorder

And these were the symptoms of your disorder: inability to manage emotions (anxiety, guilt, depression) • psychiatric symptoms • history of criminality • limited educational achievement • poor vocational skills • inadequate anger management skills • the sequelae of physical, sexual or emotional trauma • demonstrates distractibility, negative emotions, or anxiety to such a degree that destabilization is likely outside of a highly structured environment • lacks motivation to seek appropriate interventions • requires active interventions with family • lacks awareness of anxiety or depression triggers • difficulty postponing immediate gratification • requires case management to coordinate medications • continued exposure to school, work or living environment MAKES RECOVERY UNLIKELY • insufficient resources and skills to maintain an adequate level of functioning outside of a 24 hour supportive environment • needs support while transitioning to life in the community. –ASAM criteria for needing a 3.1 level of care

BUT this was the care that you received to assist in your “recovery”: 
  • No psychological or family counseling even when it is assessed as necessary to your recovery.
  • No source of food, other than a single package of Ramen noodles per day. Your food stamp card is taken by the Program Director, where it is cashed in for .50 on the dollar at local markets, while you are provided with a couple canned food items from the local food bank to eat. Lack of nutrition or malnutrition, Personal belongings, medication, and food are consistently stolen –either by housemates or program staff.
  • Getting a job, attending classes, or receiving job training gets you kicked out of your program when your "Program" can no longer bill your Medicaid for IOP/PHP, causing you to become immediately homeless with a complete and total disruption of ALL TREATMENT SERVICES –including Suboxone or psych meds.
  • If you were released from a higher level of care maintained on Suboxone and you run out, you are forced to endure the withdrawals, or buy it illicitly on the nearest street corner (your Program Director can tell you which one).
  • It is dangerous to walk alone in the neighborhood where your program is located due to the threat of robbery or physical assault. 
  • You experience heightened and uncomfortable cravings as you are constantly offered drugs in the open air drug markets that surround your “treatment” program.  In fact, it is not uncommon for your Program staff to be selling drugs, and pressuring you to sell your prescription drugs for illicit distribution. Your “House Manager” may have less “clean time” than you do.
  • If you are short on your rent, and your eviction seems imminent, your Program Director may offer to trade sexual favors in lieu of cash. 
  • The Program Director, as well as “staff”, need not have any knowledge about your disorder, your psychological needs, your developmental needs, nor do they need any training in treatment protocols (their background may be in real estate investment).
  • If you complain about your program verbally, write a letter of complaint to a local or state official, or file a grievance of any kind, you may be kicked out of “treatment” and become immediately homeless –and/or experience or be threatened with physical assault.
  • There is no statewide agency or organization that provides oversight for your continued care.
Every Marylander’s tax dollars are used to pay for the above Continuum of Care model!

Our children are NOT dying from overdoses –Our children are dying from a serious and severe lack of appropriate healthcare –A treatment system without standards, performance measures, or oversight!


OUR KIDS NEED YOUR SUPPORT ON THURSDAY!  If  you are able to speak with your legislators in Annapolis regarding this bill on Thursday, 2/23, OR Tuesday, 2/28, please email or call 301-525-6183.  Please email and/or call the legislators in the Senate Finance Committee and ask them to support SB 553, and in the House Health & Government Operations Committee and ask them to support HB 869. 

Committee members contact info can be found on this site:

Tuesday, February 21, 2017


Recovery Residence Residential Rights Protection Act

Individuals with a chronic, potentially life-threatening disorder, who have been assessed as needing a specified regimen of services to address their disorder as determined by criteria developed by the American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM) and accepted nationwide, are being referred by providers into lower levels of care that do not offer these services –thereby jeopardizing the lives of their patients. Patients who are assessed as needing on-going mental health services, psychiatric services, Suboxone maintenance, family counseling, vocational / educational counseling, legal services, family stabilization services, etc. are being referred into recovery residence programs that do not provide these services. Consumers and their families assume that they are being referred to programs that match the patient’s needs. This is very far from the truth.

If Recovery Residences are accepting patients directly from hospitals and detox programs, with a diagnosed often co-occurring disorder that is potentially fatal when left untreated, than they must be held accountable for providing the services that are necessary for the wellbeing of those within their programs.

It is high time that Maryland establish a certification system for recovery residences to provide a consistent continuum of care for patients, and that we require behavioral health units discharging a patient to provide a list of certified and non-certified residences to patients to provide this continuing care.

If you are able to speak with your legislators in Annapolis regarding this bill on Thursday, 2/23, please email or call 301-525-6183.  Please email and/or call  legislators in the Senate Finance Committee and ask them to support SB 553, and in the House Health & Government Operations Committee and ask them to support HB 869. 

You can find Committee members at:

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Can You Believe That Anyone Would OPPOSE Expanding Opioid Addiction Treatment?


On Tuesday, February 21st, the House Health & Government Operations Committee will hear from constituents about why they should require hospitals to establish a substance use treatment program to identify patients in need of treatment and admit the patient to the appropriate treatment setting or, if admission is not required, direct the patient to the appropriate outpatient treatment setting.  Hospitals would be required to provide TREATMENT ON DEMAND 24 hours a day / 7 days a week.

The Maryland Hospital Association is opposing this legislation because it would cost the hospitals “too much money” to save the lives of our children. 

I had to ask myself, “Who ARE these callous people?”  Who would deny life-saving healthcare services to our children because of money –when it is not too expensive to treat many more costly conditions, such as cardiac arrest, diabetic shock, or suicide?

I thought, “Perhaps these hospitals REALLY DON’T have enough money to save the life of our children by providing TREATMENT ON DEMAND for chronic intravenous opioid users.” 

According to the Health Services Cost Review Commission, here is a short list of the top paid hospital employees in 2014 –at hospitals that deny our children life-saving healthcare services: 

·         Robert Chrencik, University of Maryland Medical System: $6.90 million

·         Kenneth Samet, MedStar Health: $4.39 million

·         Ronald Peterson, Johns Hopkins Health System: $2.61 million

·         Michael Curran, MedStar – Southern Maryland Hospital: $2.59 million

·         M. Joy Drass, MedStar – Southern Maryland Hospital: $1.91 million

There are 149 hospital employees, who earn more than half a million dollars each year, at hospitals that have made the decision that it is “too costly” to provide life-saving healthcare services –such as opiate detox and referral to next level of care.  Of these 149 hospital employees:

·         113 individuals made between $500,000 and $1 million

·         24 individuals made between $1 million and $1.5 million

·         8 individuals made between $1.5 million and $2 million

·         4 individuals made more than $2 million

The combined salary of these 149 hospital employees is $136,412,654.

If we needed only $1 million to fund the statewide hospital substance abuse treatment bill –that would total less than 1% of this combined salary. 


·       Show Your Support in Annapolis on 2/27.  Meet with other advocates in the morning to talk to legislators about the bill.  Ask the House Health & Government Operations Committee to vote favorably on HB 515 at 1:00.  R.S.V.P. to or call 301-525-6183 if you are able to meet us in Annapolis.

·        Call ALL members of the House Health & Government Operations Committee and ask them to vote favorably on HB 515.

·    Email ALL members of the House Health & Government Operations Committee and ask them to vote favorably on HB 515.

Here is the link to the House Government Operations Committee:

Monday, February 13, 2017



HB 0488: Use or Possession of a Controlled Dangerous Substance - De Minimis Quantity

Mass incarceration of non-violent drug users in Maryland wastes resources, ruins lives, and does nothing to reduce drug use. More than 40,000 arrests for non-violent drug crimes took place in Maryland in 2014, and 81% of drug arrests were for possession only. Maryland has approximately 4,000 prisoners incarcerated for drug crimes at any point in time, costing the corrections system $260 million. Collateral consequences of drug convictions include loss of child custody, voting rights, employment, business loans, licensing, student aid, public housing, and other public assistance, not to mention the self-defeat and stigma that can last a lifetime.

In 2016, we passed the Justice Reinvestment Act (JRA) to reduce Maryland’s prison population and reduce the likelihood of reoffending. This legislation is an extension of the JRA in that it changes a criminal offense into a graduated civil offense. The JRA works with people after arrest, prosecution, and incarceration; this bill will divert people into treatment before entry into the criminal justice system. 

This bill does not change penalties for possession, distribution, or sale of larger amounts. The first time a person is caught with a very small personal amount of drugs, he/she will no longer be arrested, jailed, prosecuted, imprisoned, or saddled with a criminal record, but instead will be referred to treatment.  A graduated civil offense applies to an individual who is caught twice with possession of drugs, and a person is moved to the criminal justice system on their third offense.

Empirical evidence demonstrates that decriminalization DOES NOT result in increased use or crime.  IT DOES reduce incidences of HIV/AIDS and overdose; increases the number of people in treatment; and reduces social costs of drug use.

1) Testify in Annapolis on 2/14 at 1:00  (In 3 minutes, give reasons why this bill should become law)
Email: or Call to sign up to testify: 301-525-6183

2)  Call and/or email elected officials on the House Judiciary Committee and the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee and ask them to vote favorably on House Bill 488 and Senate Bill 798.  To identify Committee members, click on the link below or paste it into your URL, locate the committee and click on it, and then click on the "membership" drop down tab.  Then click on "contact".

Friday, February 10, 2017

CALL TO ACTION: Stop DHMH from escalating misinformation campaign to families in crisis!


A Maryland Public Television Documentary --Breaking Heroin's Grip:  Road to Recovery, airing on 2/11, will promote a number to call
"staffed by crisis hotline staff who will provide callers with information on treatment." 
The number to call is 800-422-0009
Advocates have been calling the number for the crisis hotline to check and make sure that the hotline actually provides "callers with information on treatment" since the hotline was advertised as offering this information during Governor O'Malley's last year in office. 

Sadly --the call center staff provide accurate information ONLY 1 in 5 times to parents seeking treatment for a child suffering from a chronic often-fatal opioid use disorder!!

Advocates made DHMH and NCADD aware of this problem in 2014 ...then again in 2015 ...then again in 2016 ...NOW, in 2017, DHMH has partnered with NCADD and Maryland Public Television to escalate efforts to provide the same WRONG, INACCURATE, and MISLEADING information that it has sought to provide to desperate parents in crisis who are seeking accurate and life-saving information for a son or daughter with a chronic often fatal substance use disorder!

Today, I called the hotline, posing as a parent seeking INPATIENT DETOX for an adult child who uses OPIOIDS INTRAVENOUSLY EVERY DAY and is covered by Maryland MEDICAID.  (The capitalized words should clue the call-taker in to which providers to refer to.  "Intravenous", "daily-use", "opioids" meets medical necessity criteria for referring to "inpatient" "detox").  Consistent with test calls made in 2014, 2015, and 2016, the call-taker gave me 5 referrals --1 inpatient detox provider, 2 hospitals that DO NOT provide opioid detox (and never have), and 2 providers in D.C. that NOT ONLY do not provide opioid detox, BUT DO NOT ACCEPT MARYLAND MEDICAID!! 


What adds insult to injury here is that grassroots peer-founded non-profits across Maryland ARE PROVIDING accurate information regarding treatment services to parents in crisis --based on standard medical necessity criteria and payer criteria.  We are all providing this information with very limited funding that we are responsible for raising.  DHMH fails repeatedly to provide us with opportunities for funding, for technical assistance, or for collaboration.  Even though non-profits ARE PROVIDING these services, DHMH consistently hands large grants that could cover much of the peer-support work currently provided throughout the state, to their favored organizations who ARE NOT currently doing the work, WITHOUT ANY RFP OR BID PROCESS --therefore, non-profit organizations that are providing ACCURATE and NECESSARY information to families in crisis, cannot get the support they need to expand or even to sustain these services. 

Please call the following individuals and ask them to work with Maryland's peer support network to FIX THE CRISIS HOTLINE!!  PLEASE CALL EVERY DAY THIS WEEK!!
(please email and let us know that you have called and/or emailed the following individuals)
Barbara J. Bazron, Ph.D., Executive Director, Dept of Health & Mental Hygiene (410) 402-8452

Marian V. Bland, Deputy Director, Dept of Health & Mental Hygiene  (410) 402-8461

Margie Donohue, Contact for MPT Project and Crisis Hotline Promotion, (410) 402-8667

Kathleen T. Rebbert-Franklin, Deputy Director for Population-Based Behavioral Health (410) 402-8610

Boyd Rutherford, Lieutenant Governor of Maryland, (410) 974-3901

Dennis Schrader, Secretary of Health & Mental Hygiene, (410) 767-6500

Maryland Public Television to air documentary highlighting opioid addiction -
February 11 at 7 PM.
Breaking Heroin's Grip: Road to Recovery
Maryland Public Television (MPT) and over two dozen other local TV and radio stations to air a new program called BREAKING HEROIN'S GRIP: ROAD TO RECOVERY on February 11 at 7 p.m.  The program was produced in association with the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene - Behavioral Health Administration . 

The program focuses on the struggles and recovery efforts of three Maryland residents, in rural and urban settings, dealing with opioid addictions. The documentary portion will last 40 minutes and will be followed by a 20 minute live phone bank staffed by crisis hotline staff who will provide callers with information on treatment. 

The number to call is 800-422-0009.
The program was arranged with broadcast and print media as part of an effort to bring localized coverage of the opioid epidemic. Maryland is among many states with surging numbers of fatal overdoses largely from opioids, which include prescription painkillers and heroin.

We ask that you post the promo on any social media your organization may actively be using:

If you have any questions or need any further information, please contact Margie Donohue at or 410-402-8667