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ASAM President Speaks to President Trump's Commission on Combatting Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis

June 20, 2017

On Friday, June 16th, President Trump’s Commission on Combatting Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis held a teleconference to discuss the Opioid Commission’s work and included participants from nine national non-profit organizations as well senior members of the Trump administration. For those who wish to view a replay of the meeting, it is available online HERE. Likewise, minutes will be prepared and available on the Opioid Commission’s website. For a summary prepared by the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP), please click here.

 

The meeting was the first of the Opioid Commission, which is comprised of five members: New Jersey Governor Chris Christie (chair), North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper, Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker, Former U.S. Representative Patrick Kennedy and Professor Bertha Madras, Ph.D. of Harvard Medical School. The Opioid Commission's mission is to develop comprehensive strategies and recommendations for improving the Federal response to drug addiction and the opioid crisis for the President.

 

Following a brief introduction from Governor Christie, remarks were offered by HHS Secretary Price and VA Secretary Shulkin. Both Secretary Price and Secretary Shulkin noted that addressing the prescription opioid epidemic is a top priority for their respective agencies which was echoed by all five Commission members. Members shared a unanimous opinion that this is the most pressing public health since the HIV/AIDS epidemic affecting families across the country and that a bipartisan, consensus-driven response is necessary to turn the tide on the prescription opioid epidemic.

 

The majority of the meeting was centered around presentations and policy proposals from 9 national non-profit organizations, including the American Society of Addiction Medicine, that had varied perspectives on how best to address the epidemic. The participants included:

 

 

While each organization offered their specific perspective on how to appropriately respond to the prescription opioid epidemic, there were themes reiterated by the witnesses:

  • Ensuring that substance use disorders and other mental illnesses are covered and reimbursed at parity through public and private insurance by improving enforcement of the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act.
  • Emphasizing how cuts to the Medicaid program could significantly reduce access to substance use treatment, for which approximately 30% of all Medicaid beneficiaries are receiving care for a substance use disorder. 
  • Incentivizing states to fund treatment for programs that meet evidence-based standards.
  • Broadening access to  overdose reversal medications, such as Naloxone, for first responders, families, and users and increase education around appropriate use.
  • Reducing the stigma associated with substance use disorders and addiction.
  • Growing the clinical workforce by investing in education, training, and fellowships for clinicians seeking to specialize in addiction treatment, as well as for primary care providers so they are able to effectively screen patients, engage them in treatment, and manage less-complex patients.
  • Reforming our criminal justice system – treating addiction as a brain disease and recognizing that people with substance use disorders should not be treated as patients, not criminals.

 

The next meeting of the Opioid Commission has been scheduled for Monday, June 26th at 4:00pm. The focus of this meeting will be to review a draft interim report, which will be made available on the Opioid Commission website in advance of the teleconference. The call will be open to the public (Conference Line: (866) 233-3841; Access Code: 425352). Register, here, on Friday, June 9th.