New England Governors Discuss Opioid Abuse in Boston
The six New England governors gathered on Tuesday in Boston, Massachusetts for the International Conference on Opioids to share their strategies on combating the opioid crisis and ending the stigma of addiction.
New England is the northeastern region of the U.S and it includes Massachusetts, Vermont, Connecticut, Maine, New Hampshire, and Rhode Island. These states are headed by Governors Charlie Baker (R), Peter Shumlin (D), Dannel P. Malloy (D), Paul LePage (R), Maggie Hassan (D), and Gina Raimondo (D), respectively.
According to the New Boston Post, Gov. Malloy, Chairman of the Coalition of Northeastern Governors, said, “Four years ago, none of the New England states…were universally sharing [opioid abuse] data within the geography – none. We were very hung up about personal rights and not sharing information, and protocol, and not overly burdening doctors and pharmacies to the extent that we could not even enter into agreements within the region. Hopefully that’s over and a number of us are now sharing that data.”
Governors Discuss their Opioid Strategies
The opioid conference was held at the Harvard Medical School and the governors explained how they were dealing with the opioid crisis. Conference attendees included medical professionals and officials from medical societies.
In a report by MassLive, Gov. Shumlin said the state of Vermont had built many treatment centers and increased access to Naloxone – the overdose reversing drug. He said the state had saved thousands of lives ever since the antidote became available to the public. The governor went on to criticize the pharmaceutical industry and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for approving medication which was leading many citizens into a life of addiction. He also complained about the over-prescription of opioid painkillers such as Oxycontin.
However, new FDA Chief Robert Califf had already talked about the FDA’s professionalism while in Atlanta, Georgia at the 2016 Rx Opioid and Drug Abuse Summit. In his speech posted on the FDA website, Califf outlined his qualifications as a former physician, health researcher and system administrator. He said, “I bring this experience and perspective to my new role at FDA, and I have a deep commitment to contributing to the solution to this [opioid] crisis.”
Maine Gov. Paul LePage praised the physicians in his state for becoming aware of the dangers of opioid painkillers and reducing the number of prescriptions they were writing. He also predicted that “90 percent” of the current addicts would die and it would take till 2022 to bring the opioid crisis under control.
In Massachusetts, Gov. Baker hailed the impact of Narcan saying that the death toll would have been much higher in 2015 if it were not for the overdose antidote. Baker also urged the medical community to “speak up” if they see something devastating their community, because he only learned about the opioid crisis from families instead of from the doctors.
Gov. Raimondo said that Rhode Island was using peer recovery coaches and re-evaluating the prescribing patterns of physicians. The remaining governors supported the push to improve prescription monitoring programs and to make them accessible to other states in New England.
Even though all the states have their differences, any of the strategies shared might prove crucial in winning the fight against opioid abuse and addiction.