In the 14 months leading up to September 2017, the number of overdose cases arriving at emergency departments in hospitals in the Midwest increased by an astounding 70 percent. In this case, the “Midwest” incorporates the Centers for Disease Control’s designated Midwest region, which includes the states of Wisconsin, South Dakota, Ohio, North Dakota, Nebraska, Missouri, Minnesota, Michigan, Kansas, Iowa, Indiana, and Illinois.
Overdose deaths in Native American communities have skyrocketed as well, with the increase in opioid overdose deaths from 1995 to 2015 increasing more in Native Americans than for any other demographic group. Tribes and many states are considering filing lawsuits against opioid manufacturers and distributors, and in October of 2017, President Trump declared a public health emergency regarding opioid drug addiction in the U.S.
In January 2018, several of the nation’s governors gathered to express their concerns that the federal government is not helping states sufficiently in handling opioid drug addiction. Concern over the opioid crisis is one of those rare issues with strong bipartisan support, and rightly so; every day up to 115 people in the U.S. die due to opioid overdose, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.
Governors: Public Health Emergency Declaration Not Enough
The National Governors Association offered a coordinated, bipartisan response to Trump’s October 2017 declaration of a public health crisis. While they consider the declaration a good first step, they say much more action is needed. In many regions, the nation’s workforce has been adversely affected by the opioid crisis to the point where employers are having a hard time finding people to hire. The governors want a state-federal partnership that ensures states receive sufficient Medicaid funding to address the opioid crisis and ensure that more people have access to drug addiction treatment.
New Rules for Prescribers Wanted
Governors want the federal government to require that those who are authorized to prescribe opioids undergo substance abuse prevention training and register to use state databases monitoring opioid prescriptions.
Additionally, governors want first responders to have increased access to naloxone (which reverses opioid overdoses), and they want Medicare to start covering the costs of methadone treatment for senior citizens. Another top concern for the nation’s governors includes blocking illegal shipments of synthetic opioids, specifically those from China, which has shipped large quantities of drugs like fentanyl to the US.
One-Size-Fits-All Approach Not Ideal
At the same time, governors want flexibility in how they use federal funding to fight the opioid epidemic in their states. In some states, fentanyl is the biggest problem, while in others, heroin or other opiates cause more overdoses. The governors are concerned that a one-size-fits-all approach, constrained by strict regulations, would not give states the latitude they need to tackle the problem as it presents itself locally. Ideally, they would like federal block grants to the states so individual states could address their particular opioid addiction issues most accurately.
Governors in the US are pleased with last year’s declaration of a national opioid health crisis, but they say that a simple declaration does not do nearly enough. States are investing significant resources in addressing opioid drug addiction, and they say they cannot do it by themselves, but require help from the federal government.
In the meantime, dozens of people per day are dying of opioid overdose, and states and individual facilities do their best to provide drug addiction treatment to the people who need it. If you are struggling with addiction, be assured that the sooner you choose to address your drug addiction with comprehensive substance abuse treatment, the sooner you will be on your way to recovery and be able to live your life free from the chains of addiction.