Trump ig­nores opi­oid panel’s con­clu­sions

The ad­vice Pres­i­dent Trump re­ceived from his com­mis­sion on the nation’s opi­oid cri­sis wasn’t what he wanted to hear.

The Reporter (Lansdale, PA) - - FRONT PAGE - — San Jose Mer­cury News, Dig­i­tal First Me­dia

The ad­vice the pres­i­dent re­ceived from the com­mis­sion wasn’t what he wanted to hear.

So he seems to be ig­nor­ing it. Which den­i­grates not only com­mis­sion mem­bers he ap­pointed but also the ad­dicted and their loved ones whom he promised dur­ing the cam­paign to help.

While his com­mis­sion’s July 31 in­terim re­port em­pha­sized treat­ment pro­grams and broad­ened so­cial ser­vices, Trump eight days later had a dif­fer­ent fo­cus.

“Strong law en­force­ment is ab­so­lutely vi­tal to hav­ing a drug-free so­ci­ety,” Trump said.

“I’m con­fi­dent that by work­ing with our health care and law en­force­ment ex­perts we will fight this deadly epi­demic and the United States will win.”

Trump is most com­fort­able talk­ing tough about win­ning bat­tles, seal­ing bor­ders and stepped-up law en­force­ment.

How­ever, that misses the mes­sage of the bi­par­ti­san Com­mis­sion on Com­bat­ing Drug Ad­dic­tion and the Opi­oid Cri­sis, chaired by New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.

Its “most ur­gent” rec­om­men­da­tion called on Trump to de­clare a na­tional emer­gency, which could give the ad­min­is­tra­tion flex­i­bil­ity to re­di­rect fed­eral fund­ing to treat­ment op­tions.

Health and Hu­man Ser­vices Sec­re­tary Tom Price said there was no need for such a dec­la­ra­tion.

It’s not clear what the ad­min­is­tra­tion plans to do in­stead.

As the com­mis­sion noted, “the opi­oid epi­demic we are fac­ing is un­par­al­leled.”

Drug over­doses kill an es­ti­mated 142 peo­ple a day in the United States, more than gun homi­cides and car ac­ci­dents com­bined.

Amer­i­cans con­sume more opi­oids than any other coun­try.

Nearly two-thirds of drug over­doses in 2015 were linked to opi­oids like Per­co­cet, OxyCon­tin, heroin and fen­tanyl.

The pres­i­dent em­pha­sizes a le­git­i­mate con­cern about heroin coming in from Mex­ico and fen­tanyl from China.

But there’s as great or greater con­cern within our bor­ders.

Pre­scrip­tion opi­oids have quadru­pled since 1999, as have opi­oid over­doses.

“We have an enor­mous prob­lem that is of­ten not be­gin­ning on our street cor­ners,” the com­mis­sion wrote. “It is start­ing in doc­tor’s of­fices and hos­pi­tals in ev­ery state in our nation.” In Cal­i­for­nia, for ex­am­ple, doc­tors are part of the prob­lem.

For four years they fought state leg­is­la­tion, ap­proved last year, re­quir­ing them to check a cen­tral­ized data­base be­fore pre­scrib­ing ad­dic­tive drugs. The data­base shows if pa­tients have been “doc­tor shop­ping” to stock up on the same drugs else­where.

What­ever the cause of ad­dic­tion, 21 mil­lion peo­ple in this coun­try have sub­stance abuse prob­lems.

Only 10 per­cent are re­ceiv­ing spe­cial­ized treat­ment.

That’s why the com­mis­sion pro­posed re­lax­ation of Med­i­caid re­stric­tions to in­crease treat­ment capacity; eas­ing of Medi­care rules to en­able more med­i­ca­tion-as­sisted treat­ment with drugs such as methadone; and en­force­ment of health plan cov­er­age laws to en­sure ad­dicts re­ceive ad­e­quate care.

The com­mis­sion also called for equip­ping all law en­force­ment with nalox­one, which rapidly re­verses drug over­doses, and for laws legally pro­tect­ing peo­ple seek­ing treat­ment for over­doses.

None of this jibes with the pres­i­dent’s push to re­peal the Af­ford­able Care Act or his get­tough ap­proach to drugs.

If only he’d lis­ten to an­other per­spec­tive.

Drug over­doses kill an es­ti­mated 142 peo­ple a day in the United States, more than gun homi­cides and car ac­ci­dents com­bined.

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