by Robert Booth, Executive Director, Center for Clinical Social Work
On Thursday, President Trump, convened a White House “summit” on the opioid-use crisis. This was the first White House opioid-related event since October (six months ago), when Trump declared a “national public-health state of emergency.” He spoke briefly on Thursday, as did his wife and a couple of cabinet members and James Carroll, Trump’s no-public-health-experience nominee for Drug Czar.
The epidemic of opioid abuse, which kills tens of thousands of Americans, continues virtually unchecked in most of the states, which have no funded programs to save lives. At this point, with so much damage done and getting worse, it will take tens of billions of dollars to turn things around.
The summit came and went, with the usual posturing and the cynical trotting-out of grieving family members. The administration made no new proposals and offered no funding. Carroll, a former prosecutor, spoke to his belief that the solution was to increase prosecution, just as Trump repeated his faith in a wall along the Mexican border. Opioid abuse has nothing to do with Mexico or walls; and prosecution is not the way forward, as has been demonstrated in Massachusetts, where a state-wide commitment to money and programs has brought about a decrease in opioid OD deaths in the past year, from 2,155 dead people to 1,977 dead people.
Talk is cheap in a crisis in which thousands of people die every month across America. Many states won’t take responsibility—and it is a national problem, with the same fatal features found everywhere. What’s required is money, and action, at the federal level; but the current level of federal commitment only guarantees that we will have more untimely deaths and more grieving families.
What is your state or agency doing about this crisis? Do you have clients who are involved in the crisis? Do you know of effective programs or funding sources? Please share your comments.