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Chuck Ingoglia

, National Council for Behavioral Health

Advancing Federal Initiatives to Reduce Prescription Opioid and Heroin Abuse

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Last week I had one of the scariest experiences of my adult life when I attended the Rx Drug Abuse Summit in Atlanta, Ga. This is the third such summit sponsored by House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers (R-KY) as a result of the devastating effects of the epidemic of prescription opioid abuse in his Congressional District.

The most startling part of the summit for me was the realization of how huge a problem the abuse of prescription opioids is in our country. As was often repeated, the US accounts for 5% of the world’s population, yet we consume 80% of the prescription opioids produced worldwide. This abundance of available opioids is leading to increased addiction and overdose in all parts of the country – more deaths from prescription opioids than from motor vehicle accidents.

Today, April 29th, I am attending the first Addiction and Criminal Justice Forum sponsored by Senators Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) and Robert Portman (R-OH) examining how the federal government can help address the opioid and heroin addiction problem in this country.

The National Council had been engaged with these and other elected officials to develop legislation that deals with the needed prevention and treatment capacity to meet this challenge. We know that there needs to be more investment in all levels of treatment, including increased access to residential treatment, intensive outpatient programs and medication assisted-treatment, including non-addictive medications. For example, we supported the introduction of the Recidivism Reduction and Public Safety Act (S. 1675) by Senators Whitehouse and John Cornyn (R-TX), which focuses on expanding our capacity to provide re-entry services to incarcerated individuals with substance use disorders and mental illnesses.

The National Council will continue to seek and promote federal efforts to support local response. We are also eager to hear about what you are doing in your communities. Here are some ideas that we have:

  • Are you involved in a local community coalition to support local prevention and education efforts?
  • Are you working with local primary care and emergency rooms to educate them about the abuse potential associated with prescription opioids?  Or alternative pain management approaches?
  • Have you implemented same-day access models so that people who realize they need treatment can come in the day they call so that you can capitalize on their motivation?

What else can we or you be doing to address this issue?  I look forward to hearing from you in the comments or via email at chucki@thenationalcouncil.org.