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STATE OF AFFAIRS: The United States One Year Later

STATE OF AFFAIRS: The United States One Year Later

WASHINGTON, D.C. (June 16, 2016) – When we started the State of Affairs column over a year ago, we saw a problem in the United States – silence. We saw embarrassment, shame, and a proactive mission for people everywhere to convince themselves that “it’s not happening here”. We saw over 120 people dying every day from an opiate epidemic that was in their cities, their communities, their homes and their families. Silence, an act many people forget is an action in itself, suffered a devastating blow when the unthinkable happened. People started speaking out. We journeyed into your homes, talked to your state Legislators, and your communities and found an overwhelming support. Here’s what’s happened in the year we all worked together to end the silence.

In October, Facing Addiction held a rally at our nation’s capital where a host of celebrities and thousands of the United State’s 23 million people in recovery gathered at the Washington Monument to say “we’re not ashamed of our journey”. Vertava Health interviewed Dr. Oz who spoke to us about the epidemic plaguing our nation.

While we were there for the rally, we went to Congress and spoke with lawmakers about burying the stigma associated with addiction and changing the conversation in Washington, D.C. from incarceration to hope.

The Obama Administration announced additional actions to address the prescription opioid use and heroin epidemic in Atlanta. The annual summit, organized by Operation UNITE, was launched by Congressman Hal Rogers (R-KY). The President made clear that addressing this epidemic is a priority for his Administration. He proposed $1.1 billion to funding expanded access to treatment, establishing a mental health and substance use disorder parity task force, implementing mental health and substance use disorder parity in Medicaid, preventing opioid overdose deaths by releasing $11 million in funding to states for purchase and distribution of Naloxone, expanding public health-public safety partnerships to combat the spread of heroin, investing in community policing to address heroin, tackling substance use disorders in rural communities, implementing syringe services programs, and new private sector commitments to address the epidemic.

Over 60 major medical universities are now requiring students to take some form of prescriber education using the new Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines for prescribing opioids for chronic pain in order to graduate.

Rite Aid has trained over 8,400 pharmacists on naloxone and is dispensing it to patients without needing an individual prescription in 10 states, with plans to expand to additional states.

Kroger currently dispenses naloxone without an individual prescription at its pharmacies in 7 states with plans to expand to at least 12 more by the end of the year.

AmerisourceBergen/Good Neighbor Pharmacy will provide educational materials to encourage their 4000 independently owned and operated retail pharmacy locations to provide naloxone without an individual prescription.

Federal departments are ahead of schedule in fulfilling the President’s directive that the agencies ensure that all employees who prescribe these drugs are trained in appropriate opioid prescribing practices by 2017. 75% of federal prescribers have been trained to date, and have expanded medication-assisted treatment such as TRICARE, FEHBP, Medicare, Medicaid, and the Health Insurance Marketplace.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued its guidelines to curb promiscuous prescribing, the agency’s FIRST EVER recommendations for primary care clinicians on prescribing opioids.

The Food and Drug Administration announced safety labeling changes for all immediate-release opioid pain medications, including requiring a new boxed warning about the serious risks of misuse, use, addiction, overdose and death associated with these drugs.

The Drug Enforcement Administration held its 11th National Prescription Drug Take Back Day, which has taken 5.5 million pounds of medication off the streets in the past decade. 227lbs. were collected in Williamson County this year when Vertava Health joined the Williamson County Anti-Drug Coalition in their efforts.

More than 40 health care provider groups announced a commitment to ensure that more than 540,000 health care providers will complete training on appropriate opioid prescribing in the next 2 years.

The National Association of Counties, National Governors Association, National League of Cities and United States Conference of Mayors, the U.S. Communities Purchasing Alliance and Premier, Inc. announced they had secured discounts on Naloxone and medication-assisted treatment drugs through their purchasing program for state and local agencies.

Walgreens announced it will install safe medication disposal kiosks in more than 500 drugstores across the country, primarily at locations open 24 hours.

CVS Pharmacy locations in 23 states now dispense naloxone to patients without needing an individual prescription, and is hoping to increase to 35 states by the end of 2016.

If Congress approves the President’s plan, the average state will receive $20-$30 million in funding over the next two years out of his $1.1 billion plan.

Unfortunately, our work is far from over. 28,000 Americans have died from opioid-related overdoses in the past 2 years. There were 47,055 lethal drug overdoses in the U.S. in 2014, and the numbers are still coming in for last year.

The Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act passed the Senate in March and the House in May. It is awaiting the President’s signature. An additional proposal to approve $600 million in immediate emergency funding to fight the heroin and opioid epidemic was rejected by the Senate. The legislation tightens monitoring of prescriptions and shifts federal resources away from incarceration and toward the treatment of people suffering from addiction. It also prohibits the Free Application for Federal Student Aid from asking students applying for college grants and loans if they’ve ever been convicted of a drug offense. The bill would also make naloxone available to law enforcement officers.

To contact members of the House and Senate and urge them to get CARA to the President’s desk quickly, you can sign this petition.

In the next few weeks, we will be updating you on the states we’ve covered and give you a region by region update on where these areas were a year ago vs. where they are today. We will not be stopped or silenced until no mother is buying her child because of a lack of resources to get them help.

State Of Affairs By State: