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EDITORIAL: Opioid crisis sparks united front

Daily Item - 10/31/2017

Oct. 31--The forces needed to effectively battle the nation's opioid epidemic are beginning to coalesce, but this is a war that must continue to be fought on all fronts.

A few more of those fronts took shape last week when President Donald Trump declared the opioid crisis a national public health emergency under federal law.

The declaration allows the government to waive restrictions, hire and deploy medical personnel to areas that need help, especially rural areas where medical options are limited, expand access to telemedicine services and provide more flexibility in the use of grant money to combat the epidemic.

In a column published here in The Daily Item on Sunday, Dr. David Feinberg, president and CEO of Geisinger Health System, underscored the importance of unity and teamwork in fighting the scourge that claims the lives of at least 91 Americans every day.

"We need every available weapon in our fight to combat this enormous problem," Dr. Feinberg wrote. "By acknowledging this crisis at the highest levels of government, we can find and implement solutions faster. This is not an issue that politicians or health care providers can solve alone. It will take the will and support of everyone to change it."

More than 64,000 people died in 2016 from drug overdoses, the majority linked to opioids, including prescription medications and the illegal drug heroin. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has found that the number of opioid overdose deaths soared 200 percent between 2000 and 2014.

Fortunately, Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf and his administration have been on the leading edge of this crisis.

Two years ago this month, Wolf and Pennsylvania Physician General Dr. Rachel Levine announced the signing of a statewide standing order that enabled all Pennsylvania residents to obtain the overdose life-saving drug naloxone, also known as Narcan, without a prescription. A total of 45 states now allow naloxone to be dispensed without a prescription.

Naloxone blocks the effects of opioids on the brain and can help restore breathing within a matter of minutes. Medical professionals note that it's generally safe and it can save a life when minutes and seconds count.

In 2016, the Wolf administration proposed the creation of 50 Centers of Excellence located across the state to treat more than 11,250 Pennsylvanians with opioid use disorder.

Feinberg said that Geisinger is proud to have been selected as one of the first 20 centers. "These clinics offer new, holistic methods to prevent and treat heroin and prescription opioid abuse with a combination of medical, social and environmental interventions," he wrote.

The war on opioid addiction will be an extended battle that must be fought on many levels, but thanks to the leaders and professionals who have stepped up to the front lines, we appear to be moving forward as a united force.


(c)2017 The Daily Item (Sunbury, Pa.)

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