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Kellyanne Conway: We can bring the opioid crisis to an end

Imagine if a plane carrying nearly 200 passengers fell from the sky each day. Americans would demand answers...

Posted: Oct 26, 2018 1:21 PM
Updated: Oct 26, 2018 1:21 PM

Imagine if a plane carrying nearly 200 passengers fell from the sky each day. Americans would demand answers -- and action.

Drug overdoses now claim nearly 200 lives each day. That's more lives annually in the US than breast cancer, car accidents or gun violence. Another 2 million people currently suffer from an opioid use disorder.

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The statistics are harrowing; the stories of loss heartbreaking. Yet in the year since President Donald J. Trump issued a nationwide call to action, and his administration declared a national public health emergency, our results and resolve offer some hope that the worst drug crisis in US history can be slowed, and eventually solved.

The results speak for themselves. Seizures of several kinds of illicit drugs are up, the number of new 30-day prescriptions is down and overdose deaths attributed to prescription pain medications have started to level.

Earlier this month, Congress passed H.R. 6, The SUPPORT for Patients and Communities Act, the largest legislative effort in history to address a single drug crisis. Passage was overwhelmingly bipartisan (98-1 in the Senate and 396-14 in the House).

With the President's signature on Wednesday, the new law will expand access to evidence-based treatment, protect communities from illicit drugs, invest more in sustained recovery and workforce participation, continue to fight the stigma directed at people with addiction and raise public consciousness of the dangers of illicitly imported synthetic opioids like fentanyl.

This bill includes more money for infants born physically dependent on opioids and their parents. Assistance for children in foster care due to parental substance abuse is also included. First lady Melania Trump has been a leader in raising awareness and engagement about the effects the drug crisis bears on our youngest victims.

But the bill isn't the only step to combat the crisis. The administration, through its collaborative "Opioids Cabinet," staff from Cabinet departments and agencies engaged in combating the opioid crisis, has focused on a whole-of-government approach that aims to treat the whole person.

Veterans Affairs is publishing prescription rates, leveraging data and offering pain management services that do not include opioid pain medicine.

Health & Human Services has invested more than $1 billion into state and community driven efforts this fall alone. Meanwhile, the US surgeon general is urging Americans to carry the overdose-reversing drug, Naloxone.

The Department of Justice announced nearly $320 million to help ease recidivism and fuel law enforcement and interdiction efforts.

The Department of Agriculture is bridging the information and access gaps in rural communities -- working to educate them about grant opportunities and federal resources to fight the opioid crisis, while the Department of Interior is doing the same on tribal lands.

The Treasury Department and the Department of Housing and Urban Development are working to set up Opportunity Zones, which will work to reskill workers and revitalize distressed neighborhoods, including those impacted by the opioid crisis.

The State Department is taking the fight to traffickers, securing commitments from allies at the United Nations to track and constrain narcotics trafficking.

More people than ever are receiving evidence-based medication -- assisted therapy for opioid addiction. One of these treatments, buprenorphine, has seen a 16% increase in new patients since President Trump took office.

And we are returning treatment decisions to the hands of trusted local experts on the front line. In September, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) awarded $930 million in grants to states to address the opioid crisis.

We are also breaking through the stigma and silence of the disease of addiction. In June, the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, in partnership with Truth Initiative and Ad Council, launched one of the largest public health ad campaigns in history, already generating 1 billion views and reaching 58% of young adults in the country.

This week, a new set of ads premiered. They tell the story of 26-year old Rebekkah's real experience of opioid withdrawal. Through efforts like our video sharing platform, Crisis Next Door, we continue to work so more Americans know that one out of every 24 people age 12 or older has reported misusing opioid medications in the past year.

The President lent his social media muscle and voice to what were record-breaking numbers of unwanted prescription drugs collected during the three National Prescription Drug Take-Back Days since he assumed office. In the span of 12 months, three take-back days netted 2.8 million pounds of pills -- enough to fill more than 10 Boeing 757s.

Each of these initiatives are a promise kept to the American people by a candidate and President who vowed to help a weary, hurting heartland.

This is not a crisis that can be solved through government action alone. Private sector partners are stepping up and stepping in to make a difference. On Wednesday, President Trump hosted 21 organizations who announced an array of efforts to combat the opioid crisis. Their work is innovative and groundbreaking. Major retail pharmacies like Walmart will now follow our evidence-based guidelines for opioid prescribing and CVS and Rite-Aid are committing to expand prescription disposal opportunities so we can make every day take back day.

Major tech companies like Facebook, Google and Amazon are committing to donate millions in advertising and leverage their platforms to spread awareness of the crisis and point people in need to vital resources.

Employers like Belden and MyPillow are changing their workplace policies to help connect employees struggling with addiction get the treatment they need, while continuing on a career path.

Blue Cross Blue Shield Association and Cigna are expanding access to medication assisted treatment, and Emergent BioSolutions is offering Narcan, the overdose reversal medication, to every public library and YMCA in the country.

And Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) will launch a public awareness campaign to their young fan base on the dangers of opioid abuse and misuse.

The opioid and drug crisis does not discriminate. It has seeped past socioeconomic, demographic, political and geographic boundaries to affect every area of the country. This is no longer someone else's kid, someone else's co-worker, someone else's community.

President Trump agrees: When someone is struggling with addiction, we don't ask them how they voted, we ask them how we can help.

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