There is power in your voice …

The same power, the same drive that prompted you to be a part of the solution – to beat back the opioid epidemic, to save lives, and bring illegal drug dealers to justice – it’s that same victorious spirit that will carry this nation through the coronavirus pandemic.

Together, we have witnessed a dramatic shift in the stigma behind drug abuse, we have seen federal and state law makers pass historic legislation and implement critical policies to aid your efforts, and most importantly we have seen the number of overdose deaths finally decrease across the country – falling from more than 70,000 in 2017 to under 68,000 in 2018, according to the CDC. It’s a direct result of your comprehensive work. We have ambushed the opioid epidemic on every side – through improvements in law enforcement, treatment and education.

It’s the people who faithfully attend this conference each year who inspire and encourage my work at the federal level. Many of you know now that I often say “a vision without funding is a hallucination” – and that’s been the hinge of my life’s work in the public sector – securing the money you need to create effective prevention curriculum for our schools, take research to the next level, end interstate drug trafficking rings, expand treatment and recovery centers, and simply bring those long-laid plans to fruition. Most recently, I was able to help secure $525 million in the CARES Act to address substance abuse during the COVID-19 pandemic through the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. According to the National Institutes on Drug Abuse (NIDA), COVID-19 presents a serious threat to individuals who smoke marijuana, have opioid use disorder (OUD) or methamphetamine use disorder as this emerging virus attacks respiratory and pulmonary health. It is my hope that critical funding in the CARES Act will streamline care and prevention efforts for the addiction community.

Although the threat of this pandemic could have cancelled our ninth annual summit, I applaud the expansive team behind the scenes of the Rx Summit who refused to allow this national crisis to impede the efforts of another long-suffering health emergency – the deadly opioid abuse epidemic. We don’t have time to waste as nearly 200 American lives hang in the balance every day from a drug overdose. We must use our time wisely this week – ask the right questions, make the right contacts and push for the changes we need to creatively ramp up our efforts in the midst of this unprecedented storm.

I’ve seen so many of you answer the call to action under the most difficult circumstances – birthing a new prevention program after losing a child to an overdose or advocating for legislative changes to hold more illicit drug dealers accountable for the blood on their hands. There is power in your voice, hope in your work, and joy on the horizon as we find strength in numbers and shared solutions. The hope you carry is infectious and contagious.

As we communicate further this week, I want to send our heartfelt appreciation from the Rx Summit team to all of our medical professionals and first responders on the front lines of the opioid epidemic and the COVID-19 pandemic. Thank you for keeping our communities healthier and safer every day. Together, we will flatten the curve on both of these national health crises.

I look forward to seeing each of you in person next year in Nashville for our 10th annual summit! Until then, Godspeed. 

“There is power in your voice, hope in your work, and joy on the horizon as we find strength in numbers and shared solutions. The hope you carry is infectious and contagious.”