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Former President Bill Clinton visits Johns Hopkins, urges action on opioid crisis

The Baltimore Sun

October 30, 2017

 

Former President Bill Clinton said in a speech Monday at the Johns Hopkins University that everyone can play a part in solving the killer opioid epidemic gripping the nation.

Every person or group needs to pick something like stocking the overdose reversal drug naloxone, tackling stigma or calling for the expansion of treatment, Clinton said before directing the audience to a report released Monday with a list of recommendations compiled by the Clinton Foundation and the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

The response so far has been lacking, said Clinton, citing the more than 64,000 overdose deaths logged nationally last year, including more than 2,000 in Maryland — most linked to opioids including prescription painkillers and illegal versions such as heroin and fentanyl.

“We’re finally acting like grown ups and treating this like a public health problem and not a criminal justice problem,” which Clinton said was the good news. “The bad news is the response has been woefully inadequate. What we’re here today to do is figure out what to do next.”

Clinton pointed to many of the recommendations in the report — “The Opioid Epidemic, From Evidence to Impact” — and then moderated one of two panels of experts who reiterated the need for more attention and resources for addiction, drug abuse and overdoses.

The report began as a collaboration between the Bloomberg School and the Clinton Foundation in 2014 aimed at addressing the staggering rates of deaths from opioids, which have only grown each year.

The 45-page report offers specific actions that should be taken by public health officials at every level of government.

Among other things, it calls for seeking local policy changes reflecting national guidelines on reducing the number of prescriptions written for opioid painkillers; securing funding for better packaging to prevent diversion of drugs; expanding take-back programs for unused drugs; increasing surveillance of opioid misuse and disorders; boosting funding for treatment in high-use areas; developing easier-to-use naloxone formulations; establishing supervised consumption spaces; mandating participation in prescription drug monitoring programs that track individual patients’ pills; and changing language to avoid stigmatization and increasing public education.

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