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HHS Secretary Price Says All Options on the Table to Fight Opioid Crisis

August 08, 2017

Following a briefing from the President’s Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis, led by New Jersey Governor Chris Christie (R), Secretary of Health and Human Services Tom Price offered few details about strategy to address the national opioid crisis. He did pledge continued support from the Trump Administration to fight the crisis, and offered that everything is on the table for consideration. Secretary Price indicated that at this time the Administration believes it can effectively handle the situation without declaring a national emergency.

During March, President Trump established the commission and directed members to study ways to fight and treat drug abuse, addiction, and the opioid crisis. Commission members include Governors Christie, Charlie Baker (Massachusetts), and Roy Cooper (North Carolina); and former Congressman Patrick J. Kennedy and Professor Bertha Madras, Ph.D.

During early August, the commission issued a preliminary report and called upon the President to “declare a national emergency under either the Public Health Service Act or the Stafford Act.” By declaring such an emergency, the Trump Administration could remove some barriers and waive certain federal rules that create challenges to providing treatment and ….

The commission’s preliminary report calls for:

  • Expanded access to drug treatment for Medicaid recipients
  • Increased use of medication-assisted treatments
  • Development of non-opioid pain relievers
  • Wider use of a drug that can reverse an opiate overdose
  • Greater protections for individuals who report a drug overdose to first responders or law enforcement officials

Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf urged President Trump to accept the recommendations. He said the commission’s work aligns with Pennsylvania efforts, including increasing treatment options through Medicaid and Medication-Assisted Treatment, expanding opioid education and training for health professionals, and establishing a naloxone standing order.

HAP supported the creation of Pennsylvania's Prescription Drug Monitoring Program (PA PDMP) which collects information on all filled prescriptions for controlled substances; and the standing order for prescriptions for naloxone.

HAP also worked with the Pennsylvania Medical Society, the Pharmacists Association, and other specialty societies to develop an online health care provider continuing education series about the issue.

The association continues to support member initiatives to adopt warm handoff programs in which a health provider does a face-to-face introduction to a substance abuse specialist and makes a direct referral into substance abuse treatment.

During June, the federal Drug Enforcement Administration announced that, across Pennsylvania, drug overdose deaths rose by 37 percent last year. The total number of fatal overdoses in Pennsylvania, 4,642, was nearly four times the number of fatal traffic accidents. During February of 2017, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention   reported Pennsylvania's 26.3 overdose deaths per 100,000 people was the sixth highest rate in the nation.

Direct questions about HAP’s opioid crisis advocacy work to Dr. Michael Consuelos, HAP’s senior vice president, clinical integration.

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