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Best Week, Worst Week: Baltimore gets more help with opioid crisis; Greenbelt loses out on new FBI headquarters

best-worst-071517The city of Baltimore got more reinforcements this week in its fight to curb opioid abuse while Greenbelt was left high and dry in its bid to become the new home of the FBI.

Business writer Tim Curtis reported Monday that the Open Society Institute-Baltimore gave the Baltimore City Health Department $200,000 to help fight the opioid crisis, capping a stretch of increased funding for efforts across the city and state. The grant money will fund health department initiatives to reduce the stigma associated with addiction and increase rapid engagement to prevent spikes in overdoses. It will also enable more outreach teams get to places where overdose spikes have occurred.

Baltimore City Health Commissioner Dr. Lena Wen said the Baltimore is on the frontlines of the opioid epidemic and more resources are needed to combat the problem. Monday’s grant followed an announcement July 7 that the city would receive more than $3 million from the state to fight the crisis, including $2 million to create an opioid crisis center. The state also announced $830,000 to fund a local Opioid Intervention Team and $750,000 to buy 20,000 doses of the overdose reversal drug naloxone.

Gov. Larry Hogan announced a state of emergency for the state’s opioid crisis in March and said the new funding will make real differences in people’s lives. In 2016, 33 percent of the state’s overdose deaths (694 of 2,089) happened in Baltimore. Overall, Hogan has announced $22 million in aid to the state for the 2018 fiscal year, including $12 million in state funds and $10 million in federal funds from the 21st Century Cures Act.

Meanwhile, the city of Greenbelt is feeling a little bit like a jilted date this week. City officials found out Tuesday that it was no longer in the running to become the new home of the FBI when the General Services Administration announced it was scrapping a decade-long plan to look for a new headquarters building in Maryland or Virginia.

The GSA, which oversees federal office space, told Greenbelt officials it does not have enough money to move forward on a new location. The Obama administration had sought $1.4 billion for the project but Congress left it underfunded by about $882 million.

Greenbelt Mayor Emmett Jordan held out hope that the government would reconsider its decision to stop the new site search, and said all the delays in choosing a site – Greenbelt was named a finalist in 2014 – has had a chilling effect on the city. Waiting around for three years for a decision cost the city a chance to move on to other options had it known sooner.

The hulking J. Edgar Hoover building overlooking Pennsylvania Avenue has long been the government building everyone loves to hate. The FBI has complained that the blocky, concrete behemoth — named for the agency’s first and longest-serving director — is obsolete, inefficient and no longer meets the needs of an organization that has grown dramatically in the past 40 years. Those concerns were confirmed by a 2011 Government Accountability Office report that agreed the building didn’t meet the agency’s long-term security needs.