Another day, another development related to the opioid epidemic that’s raging across the country and killing dozens of people every day. But this latest news has implications for those providing care everywhere, from the Gulf of Alaska down to the Florida Keys.
Yesterday morning, both the National League of Cities and the National Association of Counties announced they’re forming a joint, nationwide task force to try and put a stop to the “devastating effects” of prescription drug and heroin abuse. That comes after the National Governors Association and American Medical Association Saturday issued a joint statement, calling for a halt to the rampant use of prescription opioids and heroin that killed nearly 30,000 people in 2014, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“It is time to put an end to this epidemic’s hold on our country,” the AMA and NGA wrote. “Many states have already taken steps, and many physicians and medical societies have partnered in those efforts. But collectively, we must do more.”
For their part, the doctors and governors urged their peers to promote better use of prescription drug monitoring programs to track when and where a patient gets every bottle of pills. Other suggested remedies include prioritizing treatment for substance use disorders, bolstering overdose prevention efforts, and educating physicians better about the dangers of opioid pills. “It is imperative we provide care for patients in pain,” the AMA and NGA write. “However, prescribing medications excessively or ‘just in case’ is not acceptable and continues to fuel this growing epidemic.”
Meanwhile, the county and city groups are forming their own task force to try and come up with solutions. They plan to explore areas such as community prevention and overdose response, effective treatment options, and using public safety to enforce and reduce the drug supply, according to the press release. The two groups aim to unearth and expand upon proven best practices through two national dialogues on opioid abuse, educational workshops and webinars, and a national summary report at the tail end of the city-county collaboration.
"We see the devastating effects of prescription drug abuse and heroin use because counties are at the intersection of the local health, justice and public safety systems,” Sallie Clark, president of the National Association of Counties, said in a statement. "Addressing this issue is a top priority for local leaders. This new initiative will build on our efforts to mitigate this crisis and strengthen the safety and security of our neighborhoods."