I came away from President Trump’s declaration of the present opioid crisis as a Public Health Emergency instead of a National Emergency rather disappointed. The latter would have made funding for initiatives accessible; it was his Commission’s primary recommendation. The President’s declaration included no funding at all. (Please see my blog “Listening To What Is Not Said” Nov. 1 2017)
I tuned in to the President’s Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis’ announcement of its Final Report on November 1, with the hope that the Commission had independently done its homework and arrived at meaningful recommendations for our country’s health.
I was not disappointed.
While the broadcast itself lasted much longer than I had planned, (over two hours), I found myself thoroughly engaged from the opening comments to the unanimous vote to adopt the committee’s recommendations.
What was striking about the broadcast was the human emotion expressed by the committee, the empathy in the chamber, and the scientific data and decades of experience in this field available to the leadership. If the Administration chooses to fully utilize the potential at its disposal, as recommended by the Commission, we will be looking back at this era someday as history, rather than wondering why “history repeats itself”.
Dr. Bertha Madras, well-noted chair of the Division of Neurochemistry at Harvard Medical School, was the lead author of the 131-page final report. Dr. Madras advised “If we don’t stop the pipeline into substance use, if we don’t promote prevention, we are going to have an open-ended catastrophe that goes on for generations.”
The human tragedy and immeasurable anguish associated with this crisis was poignantly and powerfully communicated by Doug Griffin.
Mr. Griffin, a father from Newton, NH, talked about how his daughter, Courtney, struggled with opioids. Courtney died at age 20, from an overdose. Mr. Griffin, sobbing, ended his testimony with, “I pray your children are spared from this plague, and that you never know what it’s like to be me.”
As unimaginable as it may seem, to really understand the depth and magnitude of America’s drug crisis, we need to multiply Mr. Griffin’s pain by 64,000 in 2016; this is the estimated number of drug overdose deaths for that year according to preliminary data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. One death every seven minutes.
The Commission’s Final Report was issued November 1, 2017…
This Blog was written on November 20, 2017…
One death every seven minutes equals 3,908 overdose deaths since the Commission’s Report. Yet there have been 0 words from the Administration regarding funding intentions or planning in response to the Report.
A link to the Commission’s Full report, and a link to a PBS analysis of the Commission’s formal announcement, including the video, are noted below. These are both worth a very close look when time permits.
Only a well-informed public can influence its leaders in meaningful and appropriate ways.
Commission’s Final Report
PBS NEWSHOUR Summary and Video of the Commission’s announcement (Please note there is a 44 ½ minute delay in the video’s beginning. Viewers can easily advance to the starting point)