- Associated Press - Friday, March 24, 2017

ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) - Maryland lawmakers outlined on Friday the proposals they brought together into two measures to help fight the epidemic of heroin and opioid abuse.

American Medical Association chairwoman Patricia Harris praised what she called a “comprehensive, treatment-focused approach.”

“Combined, these two pieces of legislation are among the most comprehensive bills in state legislatures, providing much-needed resources to treat patients with substance use disorders and to educate our youth - both critical elements to reverse the nation’s opioid epidemic,” Harris said in a statement.

The measures could be supported by Gov. Larry Hogan’s supplemental budget, announced Thursday, which includes $10 million for a panel to develop evidence-based strategies aimed at preventing and treating the opioid crisis. That money is the first installment of $50 million over five years that Hogan announced when he declared a state of emergency on the heroin and opioid crisis less than a month ago.

Here is a look at the Heroin and Opioid Prevention Effort (HOPE) and Treatment Act:

-Creates at least 10 crisis treatment centers with clinical staff.

-Expresses intent to provide at least $2 million in fiscal year 2019 for grants to expand drug court programs.

-Includes behavioral health-provider pay increases for three years.

-Creates a toll-free health crisis hotline 24/7.

-Requires hospitals to have a protocol for discharging a patient treated for a drug overdose or identified as having a substance use disorder.

-Requires state agencies to develop a plan to boost substance abuse treatment, including medication-assisted treatment in prisons and jails.

-Requires the health department to create guidelines for co-prescribing overdose-reversal drugs that are applicable to all licensed health care providers who are authorized to prescribe a monitored prescription drug.

Here’s some of what’s in the Start Talking Maryland Act:

-Requires specific education programs in schools on opioid addiction.

-Requires each public school to store naloxone or other overdose-reversing medication for use in an emergency situation.

-Provides grants for hiring staff to coordinate with local schools, health departments and law enforcement to involve communities and parents in fighting the opioid epidemic.

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