Protesters demand Baltimore leaders invest more into overdose prevention

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BALTIMORE — Protesters, from the Baltimore Harm Reduction Coalition, gathered outside Baltimore’s City Hall on Wednesday demanding accountability by city leaders and for them to make crucial investments toward sites focusing on overdose prevention.

A hearing that was supposed to address the city’s opioid overdose epidemic was canceled.

Baltimore City continues litigation against multiple companies the city says fueled the worst opioid epidemic in the nation.

Councilman Mark Conway said the goal of Wednesday’s hearing was to have an open conversation about the epidemic and come up with solutions.

He said the cancelation was against his wishes, and that given the pending legislation, leaders could not be briefed on the matter.

Conway said he was also dissuaded from having medical experts present.

“The response I have received is that, given the pending litigation, we could not be briefed,” Conway said. “I asked to have public health and medical experts present at today’s hearing and was similarly dissuaded from doing so.”

Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott, who is against the hearing, says Conway’s explanation was “categorically false” and that the hearing “endangered the litigation his administration has been fighting on for more than six years.”

“[The hearing] can only serve to endanger the litigation that we have been fighting on for more than six years and are now poised to win at trial later this year,” Scott said.   

Regardless, protesters say the city needs to take action now.

“If overdose prevention sites were able to operate in Baltimore City, people would have a place to go,” said Candy Kerr, from the Baltimore Harm Reduction Coalition. “They wouldn’t be using in the streets, there wouldn’t be syringe litter, there wouldn’t be any other litter you would find. They would have a place to go where they would have services, have Narcan, and if they were to have an overdose, they would be revived.”

Three other hearings on overdoses are scheduled over the coming months.