On Wednesday, February 14 of The Hill newspaper sponsored another forum on “Americas Opioid Epidemic.” Some of the featured speakers included Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, and Congressman David Joyce (R-OH). In addition, participants heard from Surgeon General Jerome Adams.
Senator Whitehouse, who has played a prominent role in crafting some of the recent legislation around both the CARA and 21st-Century CURES acts, said that he was working with this Republican Colleague Senator Rob Portman (R-OH) on a new drug bill, what he called “CARA 2.0.” Senator Whitehouse talked about some of the approaches that were taking place in his home state of Rhode Island, which like several states, has experienced a dramatic increase in opioid addiction as well as drug overdoses.
Whitehouse described the use of recovery professionals including locating them in various facilities including hospitals to assist patients coming in with addictions. When asked about the Trump Administration’s reaction to the issue the Senator said that he felt there was great deal of talk, but the budget response was a disaster. He also said that action regarding better control of prescription medication was not coordinated saying that we have a prescription drug monitoring system but it’s sloppy and uncoordinated and we need a better effort at that coordination.
Congressman David Joyce talked about his viewpoint from a prosecutorial background as a former prosecutor. Joyce emphasized the need for better community coordination working across sectors including law-enforcement. He was also critical of the prescription drug industry and the lack of accountability for the pharmaceutical industry including its use of the advertising and over reaction to pain management.
The Surgeon General discussed his experiences in his home state of Indiana and that state’s efforts dealing with the dramatic increase in HIV drug use. The General said he learned the significance of bringing together various elements including the Chamber of Commerce, faith-based community and law-enforcement. He also made a comment that has been acknowledged in several of these forums, that one of the number one mental health systems in the country is the prison system. He said we needed to change that and find a better way to provide mental health services if we’re going to make progress.
When asked about plans of safe care for children born dependent or exposed to substances, he felt we had to have two approaches. One was the safety issue for the child which hopefully keeps the family together and he emphasized the fact that mothers recover more effectively when they’re kept together with their children. He also talked about the need to do additional follow up and work on addressing the needs of children effected by fetal alcohol syndrome and neo abstinence syndrome.