Help us respond to the opioid epidemic

A challenge of this magnitude requires an unparalleled amount of coordination among all levels of government

Across the country, the heroin and opioid crisis claims the lives of 78 people every day. This horrible epidemic is the most urgent public health and safety challenge currently facing states. The harsh reality is that many of us know someone, be it a family member, best friend, neighbor, classmate or col­league, affected by the surge in opioid addiction. And surge it is — since 1999, the rate of deaths from opioid overdose has nearly quadrupled, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Preven­tion.

The crisis reaches beyond its victims and their loved ones to the health care workers, first responders and law en­forcement officers who literally staff the front lines of the opioid epidemic every day in our communities. It is devastating families, businesses and communities in every corner of our country.

A challenge of this magnitude requires an unparalleled amount of coordination among all levels of government. States have been leading the way in working to save millions of citizens’ lives and put an end to this epidemic.

As the leaders of the National Gover­nors Association and the NGA Health and Human Services Committee, each of us has worked with our fellow gov­ernors to bring attention to this issue and highlight successes some states have already had with addressing the epidemic.

Governors have taken bold action, limiting opioid prescription amounts, putting life-saving naloxone in the hands of first responders, educating the public and doctors, increasing access to treatment and recovery programs, and enhanced support for those with addic­tions.

As proactive as states have been, this is a national epidemic that requires na­tional solutions.

In February, governors, through the NGA, released a list of priorities to ad­dress the opioid crisis. Among them were a number of requests for federal action and a call for Congress to pro­vide sufficient resources to help states and communities turn the tide of this epidemic.

These requests include helping states expand access to inpatient treatment for Medicaid enrollees with substance use disorder; expanding access to medica­tion-assisted treatment, including lifting or eliminating the cap on the number of patients a provider can treat with buprenorphine; and improving provider education and training on pain manage­ment and safe opioid prescribing.

The U.S. House of Representatives recently passed legislation that will ad­dress the crisis. The nation’s governors applaud Congress for including some of our recommendations that confront the challenge of opioid and prescription drug abuse, but we continue to urge legislators to provide real and immediate funding.

None of us can afford one more day of failing to act on an affliction that sees no difference in geographic regions or political parties, and continues to claim the lives of our loved ones.

Governors ask for immediate action and look forward to partnering with those in Washington who can help us defeat the epidemic of opioid addic­tion.

 Gov. Charlie Baker of Massachusetts is the chair of the National Governors Association Health and Human Services Committee. New Hampshire Gov. Maggie Hassan is vice chair. Utah Gov. Gary Herbert is the chair of the NGA Executive Committee and Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe is vice chair.

Categories: Opinion