ATLANTA, GA (WTVQ) – Congressman Harold “Hal” Rogers (KY-5th) and Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin issued challenges for attendees of the 6th annual National Rx Drug Abuse & Heroin Summit to be passionate, learn from one another, and share promising initiatives with others in their communities.
“This week we’re dealing in hope,” Rogers stated. “We’re here to do more than talk. We’re here to act.” Rogers added that their goal for the Summit should be “to find lifesaving solutions that can be shared across state lines.”
“How badly do each and every one of you want to fix the problem?” Bevin asked attendees. “You have to have a level of boldness and conviction.”
The Summit, which began Monday evening, has drawn record attendance of nearly 2,400 people representing 48 states, the District of Columbia, and three other countries (Canada, China and Australia). Those attending – which include many of the nation’s top researchers, advocates, policy-makers and law enforcement officials – use the conference to strategize ways to prevent and respond to this country’s opioid epidemic.
Rogers, founding Co-Chair of the Congressional Caucus on Prescription Drug Abuse, noted how the holistic approach pioneered by Operation UNITE (Unlawful Narcotics Investigations, Treatment and Education), and expanded through the Rx Summit, has become a model for national initiatives.
“CARA (the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act) really institutionalized what you are doing,” Rogers cited as an example. “It can be an answer for your community.”
Bevin spoke proudly about Kentucky’s efforts to address the crisis from multiple fronts, and listed several “commonsense” initiatives that would have an immediate impact.
Kentucky has been the epicenter for the explosion of opioid abuse and has a drug overdose rate more than 1.5 times higher than the national average, based on statistics from the Kentucky Office of Drug Control Policy. Rates in several counties are triple the national average.
“We must continue working together to find solutions to Kentucky’s opioid problem,” Bevin said. “We don’t have the luxury of ignoring this drug epidemic. Our energy and resources must be focused on shutting down the on ramps to addiction. Failure is not an option.”
Among the “ideas” proffered by Bevin were:
• Limit the number of days some opioids could be prescribed, and provide better training for doctors – including requiring they spend time in a drug rehabilitation center. (“That would be a real education,” he said.)
• Rethink using “pain” as the “Fifth Vital Sign” when treating patients. (Last year, there were enough painkillers prescribed to give every man, woman and child in Kentucky 79 pills, Bevin said.)
• More proactively interceding to help pregnant women with an addiction in order to reduce the costly impact of neonatal abstinence syndrome.
The Summit, which continues through April 20, is the largest national collaboration of federal, state and local professionals seeking to address prescription drug abuse, misuse and diversion.
Additional highlights and information on the Rx Summit also can be found at http://nationalrxdrugabusesummit.org, www.facebook.com/RxSummit/