White House Announces Multi-Level Efforts Responding to Prescription Drugs & Heroin: A Guest Post from the Advancing Prevention Project

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Last week, President Obama announced a set of multi-sectoral actions responding to the growing problems associated with opioid and heroin use. The White House’s announcement is an encouraging, albeit modest step in the right direction towards supporting a range of prevention activities. Federal actions include increasing prescriber training and improving access to medication-assisted treatment. The announcement was also accompanied by state, local, and private sector commitments to increasing participation in prescription drug monitoring programs (PDMP’s), increasing access to the overdose reversal drug Naloxone and enhancing messaging for providers, amongst other actions.

Leading up to our webinar A Prevention Spectrum Approach to Opioid Use and Overdose Prevention, we heard from communities across NYS that they were hurting badly from the mental, emotional and behavioral (MEB) consequences of opioid dependence and addiction—particularly from the tragedy of opioid overdose deaths. As a result, we’ve been working to deliver tools, resources and assistance that address the range of harms that can accompany opioid use. As public health practitioners, we’d ideally aim to prevent the nonmedical use of opioids in the first place, but we also have to respond to the reality that people do and will use opioids. Naloxone is safe, effective, and it is one of the essential prevention components of a prevention spectrum approach to opioid use and overdose. Distributing it to bystanders, such as  peers and family members of people who use opioids, and first responders saves lives.

Many local partners can help you plan and implement Naloxone programs through overdose prevention training. Additionally, about 100 NYS Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse-registered (OASAS) substance abuse coalitions are planning and implementing prevention activities across the state with diverse stakeholders like law enforcement, social services, schools, community members in recovery, and local health departments. To find out more about your local coalition, you can contact Rachel Truckenmiller (OASAS Prevention Framework Coordinator) or your Regional Prevention Center.

Not unlike chronic disease, many of the dollars spent on treating MEB disorders such as substance use have gone to the costly treatment of existing illness, for services like detoxification and intensive residential treatment. While treatment must be part of the equation, policy makers would be wise to invest more ineffective MEB prevention programs, especially considering the potential for vast cost-savings these programs promise. The White House’s announcement to extend some funding to preventing opioid use and overdose is promising and we’d like to see more of it!

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