Ari­zona of­fi­cial asks for fed­eral flex­i­bil­ity in fight­ing opi­oids

Emer­gency dec­la­ra­tion al­lows op­tions for cri­sis

The Washington Times Daily - - NATION - BY JASON TIDD

An Ari­zona of­fi­cial says the fed­eral gov­ern­ment should fund, but not in­ter­fere with, states’ ef­forts to re­verse the ris­ing num­ber of opi­oid-re­lated deaths across the coun­try.

Danny Sei­den, an aide to Ari­zona Gov. Doug Ducey, said Wed­nes­day that the best way for the fed­eral gov­ern­ment to com­bat the grow­ing opi­oid epi­demic is to al­low states to pur­sue their own so­lu­tions with fed­eral funds.

Dur­ing a panel dis­cus­sion at the Amer­i­can En­ter­prise In­sti­tute, Mr. Sei­den said he’s “skep­ti­cal of the gov­ern­ment do­ing much to help,” but he of­fered a few sug­ges­tions.

He sug­gested that feds al­low states to use Med­i­caid funds for sub­stance abuse treat­ment in pris­ons and jails, and to as­sume more re­spon­si­bil­ity over funds for un­em­ploy­ment in­sur­ance and work­place de­vel­op­ment ini­tia­tives.

“[These give] more flex­i­bil­ity for states, which I’m al­ways a fan of, be­cause we are the ones gov­ern­ing,” Mr. Sei­den said.

Mr. Ducey de­clared a statewide opi­oid pub­lic health emer­gency on Monday, but Ari­zona is not alone in fac­ing an opi­oid cri­sis. Florida Gov. Rick Scott de­clared the opi­oid epi­demic a pub­lic health emer­gency in May af­ter Mary­land Gov. Larry Hogan had done so in March.

Mr. Sei­den said the pub­lic health emer­gency dec­la­ra­tion will al­low Ari­zona to gather bet­ter data on the epi­demic and in­crease re­port­ing re­quire­ments of health care providers. It also al­lows the state De­part­ment of Health Ser­vices to in­crease the avail­abil­ity of nasal spray nalox­one, which blocks or re­verses the ef­fects of opi­oid over­doses.

Ari­zona, which av­er­ages two opi­oid over­dose deaths ev­ery day, started a pilot pro­gram in Jan­uary to dis­trib­ute nalox­one to at-risk com­mu­ni­ties. From Jan­uary to April, there were 492 doc­u­mented re­ver­sals of over­doses, Mr. Sei­den said.

Opi­oid over­dose deaths have quadru­pled na­tion­wide since 1999, ac­cord­ing to the Cen­ters for Dis­ease Con­trol and Pre­ven­tion. The CDC has called the opi­oid cri­sis an epi­demic since 2011.

More than 33,000 peo­ple died from opi­oid over­doses in 2015, ac­cord­ing to the Amer­i­can So­ci­ety of Ad­dict­ing Medicine.

Mr. Sei­den was one of four panelists dis­cussing opi­oids and so­ci­ety at the Amer­i­can En­ter­prise In­sti­tute. The other panelists were Christo­pher Cald­well, a se­nior editor at The Weekly Stan­dard; Ni­cholas Eber­stadt, an AEI po­lit­i­cal econ­omy re­searcher; and Harold Pol­lack, a pro­fes­sor at the Uni­ver­sity of Chicago School of So­cial Ser­vice Ad­min­is­tra­tion.

“Ev­ery day that a per­son spends in treat­ment is good for them [and] it’s good for so­ci­ety, be­cause crimes are not be­ing com­mit­ted [and users are] not go­ing to the ER. There’s al­ways money saved,” said panel mod­er­a­tor Dr. Sally Sa­tel, an AEI res­i­dent scholar and staff psy­chi­a­trist at Part­ners in Drug Abuse. “But for a last­ing re­cov­ery, cer­tainly we want … fol­low-through on these pro­grams.”

Opi­oids are highly ad­dic­tive, pain-killing drugs that in­clude heroin and syn­thetic sub­sti­tutes such as fen­tanyl.

“A very large per­cent­age of the wounded war­rior group in the mil­i­tary, and a very large per­cent­age of can­cer pa­tients, de­velop sub­stance abuse dis­or­ders on these painkillers,” Mr. Pol­lack said.

Mr. Eber­stadt used two maps to show that the same ar­eas of the coun­try ex­pe­ri­enc­ing the high­est rates of death by al­co­hol, drugs and sui­cide also tend to have less re­li­gious ad­her­ence.

Mr. Cald­well called the drug cri­sis “an equal op­por­tu­nity de­stroyer” in that it af­fects ev­ery­one, adding that so­ci­etal break­down con­trib­utes to the epi­demic.

“The ab­sence of things to do, the ab­sence of mean­ing in so­ci­ety, the ev­ery-man-for-him­self at­ti­tude … is poi­sonous be­cause it just leaves peo­ple vul­ner­a­ble to all kinds of bad things,” Mr. Cald­well said.

“I don’t think any of this will be enough … be­cause this cri­sis is ul­ti­mately not a fail­ure of pol­icy, it’s one of cul­ture,” Mr. Sei­den said. “Gov­ern­ment’s not go­ing to save us here; it’s go­ing to re­quire more than that.”

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