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Opioid Commission Delivers Recommendations

Nov 2, 2017
Originally published on November 2, 2017 12:08 pm
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The opioid commission chaired by New Jersey Governor Chris Christie delivered a long list of recommendations to President Trump yesterday in its final report on the nation's opioid crisis. And we have more from NPR's Greg Allen.

GREG ALLEN, BYLINE: Governor Chris Christie is taking the lead on combating opioids, not just as head of the White House commission but also in New Jersey, where he's spending $200 million on initiatives to improve treatment and recovery services. In delivering the commission's final report at the White House yesterday, Christie recalled being asked a question recently about the cost of addressing the opioid epidemic.

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CHRIS CHRISTIE: I asked him, if a terrorist organization was killing 175 Americans a day on American soil, what would you be willing to pay to make it stop? I think we'd be willing to do anything and everything to make it stop.

ALLEN: Added to the nine recommendations it made to the White House in its interim report, the 56 proposals unveiled yesterday reflect months of work and input from researchers, medical professionals, recovery experts and families directly affected by opioid addiction. Among the commission's key recommendations is that the federal government fund a media campaign to educate the public to the dangers of opioids, with a second, equally important goal. Commission members say to get people the treatment they need, a first step is to remove the stigma from addiction. Doug Griffin, whose daughter, Courtney, died of an overdose in 2014, told the commission he's heard people say opioid addiction is a choice and those addicted deserve what they get.

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DOUG GRIFFIN: If any of you think they are injecting heroin to party with their friends, you are wrong. They're dying in gas stations, bathrooms, at the wheel of the car. I would find my daughter, Courtney, curled in a ball on her closet floor hiding from the world.

ALLEN: Among the other recommendations, the commission wants the administration to require states and doctors to use a national prescription drug-monitoring database which would track patients with potential abuse problems as well as doctors who prescribe a lot of opioids. Another proposal is that Congress give the Labor Department, which oversees many health insurance plans, authority to impose penalties on insurance companies that deny coverage for those in drug treatment programs. Commission member and former Congressman Patrick Kennedy says with this report now is the time to put pressure on Congress to get serious about opioids.

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PATRICK KENNEDY: We need to go out there and start going to these officials and telling them that we're going to hold them accountable, God forbid, hold politicians accountable on an issue that's important to millions of American families on both sides of the political aisle.

ALLEN: When he declared opioids a public health emergency last week, President Trump said he looked forward to the commission's final report and would work to carry out its recommendations. Greg Allen, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.