WASHINGTON – As lawmakers wrangle over the opioid crisis, the Hazelden Betty Ford Institute for Recovery Advocacy is sponsoring a town hall next Wednesday in Washington to talk about how to get the best care to overdose survivors.
The Minnesota organization is part of the nation's largest nonprofit addiction treatment provider and is bringing together leaders from around the country to talk about an epidemic that killed more than 30,000 people last year.
"Many opioid-related laws have been passed in the nation's capital and throughout the country, awareness has been raised and money is being spent — investments that will make a difference in the long-term," Nick Motu, vice president of the institute, said in a statement. "In the meantime, however, more people than ever are dying."
He added that naloxone, the medication that reverses opioid overdoses, is saving lives but people who benefit from it may still return to using.
"We're going to look at solutions … to connect people to the care they need and help them 'say yes' to treatment and recovery," Motu said.
Among the speakers will be a paramedic from Minnesota who has revived dozens of opioid overdose victims. Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar will also participate.
Klobuchar noted on Friday that a Centers for Disease Control report found that opioid prescriptions in the U.S. fell 18 percent over five years after peaking in 2010.
"The recently released analysis is encouraging and shows that our efforts to curb prescription drug abuse are producing results," she said.
Funding for opioid treatment has drawn substantial debate at the Capitol, as Republicans try to pass legislation that would repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. Critics say the measure would greatly curtail addiction treatment services by rolling back Medicaid, though the Senate version includes $2 billion to address opioids.
President Trump has declared opioids a priority, and Dr. Jerome Adams, his recent pick for surgeon general, has focused heavily on the issue as state health commissioner of Indiana. Trump also established an opioid commission headed by New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, which is expected to release a report of recommendations soon. Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle in Minnesota and nationally have sponsored legislation to combat opioids.
The town hall will take place at George Washington University in the Lisner Auditorium at 7 p.m.