ATLANTA (4-18-17) – Letters are in the mail to governors of all states and U.S. territories informing them that $485 million in grants have been awarded for evidence-based initiatives through the 21st Century Cures Act, Tom Price, Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, announced Wednesday evening at the National Rx Drug Abuse & Heroin Summit.
“There is no miracle solution,” Price warned, but added states know best what things their citizens need to overcome and prevent substance abuse problems.
In 2015 there were 52,404 overdose deaths – more than the total number of lives lost during the Vietnam War, Price said. Of these, two-thirds were from opioid-related overdoses.
Price pledged support from the Trump administration, noting the opioid crisis is one of his agency’s top three priorities.
In addition to promoting healthy, sustainable ways to treat pain, one of the greatest unmet needs, and one of the hardest to treat, is to alleviate the “pain of loneliness and despair,” Price said. “For many citizens, it is too difficult to access (help from) family, faith, work, and community.”
“As a nation we can endure this temptation, but no agency or department can do it alone. The numbers tell us we must do better than we have done in the past,” Price said. “God is faithful. He will always provide.”
The Summit, which began Monday, has drawn record attendance of more than 2,400 people representing 48 states, the District of Columbia, and three other countries (Canada, China and Australia).
Other keynote speakers on the final night of the summit included Richard Baum, acting director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, and Kana Enomoto, acting deputy assistant secretary of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).
“The Trump Administration is a pro-treatment administration,” Baum said. “It’s going to require all of us working even harder than we already are to combat the opioid overdose epidemic by expanding access to treatment, disrupting trafficking networks, and preventing drug use from beginning in the first place.”
Enomoto said that 52 percent of the 8.1 million people with a co-occurring mental health and substance use disorder receive no treatment at all.
“We know what to do, and we know how to do it. But are we?” she asked.
Highlighting a number of initiatives that are having success, Enomoto stated that “the power of community prevention is so inspiring.”
Those in attendance were also treated to a surprise appearance by Sam Quinones, author of “Dreamland: The True Tale of America’s Opiate Epidemic.”
Quinones was slated to be an opening session keynote speaker on Monday, but suffered a major heart attack earlier in the day and underwent open-heart surgery.
“I thought I was writing a book about drug trafficking. But, as I got into it, I began to realize it was about a country we had become,” Quinones said, noting the 24-hour news cycle had replaced human interaction with isolation. “The great news today is that (drug addiction) is no longer hidden.”
“Don’t lose hope,” Quinones said. “The country, your neighborhood, need you badly.”
The Summit, which concludes on Thursday, is the largest national collaboration of federal, state and local professionals seeking to address prescription drug abuse, misuse and diversion.