Christie’s drug commission tells Trump — declare a state of emergency
The Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis, chaired by Gov. Chris Christie, is calling on President Donald Trump to declare a federal state of emergency to deal with the opioid epidemic.
An interim report sent to the White House says data collected by the Centers for Disease Control indicates 142 Americans die every day from drug overdoses.
The report also says drug overdoses now kill more people than gun homicides and car crashes combined, and “America is enduring a death toll equal to Sept. 11 every three weeks.”
The commission recommended opening up more treatment beds across the country by granting waiver approvals to “quickly eliminate barriers to treatment resulting from the federal Institutes for Mental Diseases exclusion within the Medicaid program.” The exclusion, under current law, keeps states from using federal Medicaid funds to care for adults under the age of 65 in psychiatric institutions.
Christie said if these waiver approvals are granted “we will drastically and immediately increase the amount of drug treatment that is available through the Medicaid program.”
The commission is also proposing the following actions:
• Addressing regulations, including enforcing requirements that health plans provide the same level of services for those with physical health issues as those with mental health and substance abuse issues.
• Equipping all law enforcement officers with the overdose reversal drug naloxone.
• Providing money for federal agencies to develop sensors that can detect the synthetic opioid fentanyl, which has led to an increase in overdose deaths.
• Increasing use of medications approved for treating opioid addiction in prisons.
• Requiring doctors, physician assistants and nurse practitioners in federally qualified health centers to get waivers to prescribe buprenorphine, a medication for opioid addiction.
• Achieving data sharing among state prescription drug monitoring programs by July 1, 2018.
Christie said shedding light on the problem of addiction so people aren’t afraid and ashamed to get help is crucial, and toward that end, a publicity campaign must be mounted that “applies not only to traditional communication methods, but also to make sure that we’re reaching our children in the ways that they communicate and interact today through social media.”
He stressed this will encourage prevention and “help to eliminate stigma on this issue as well, which we know is a huge barrier to people getting appropriate treatment.”
Christie said he’s looking forward to going on the road in the coming weeks “so we can bring the president and the treatment community across the country even more ideas on how to deal with this problem and hopefully save lives.”
He added before a final report is issued in October, “we’re going to have additional public meetings to receive input, we’re going to travel to meet with innovative cutting edge treatments across the country, to be able to try and replicate those on a bigger scale.”
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— With reporting by David Matthau and the Associated Press