Home > News > National Organizations Band Together to Ensure that Congress Passes Comprehensive Policies to Combat the U.S. Opioid Epidemic

The Coalition to Stop Opioid Overdose Launches to Advance Legislation that Will Address this Public Health Crisis

Washington, D.C., May 19, 2016 — More than 10 million Americans report misusing opioids. In response to this unprecedented and growing epidemic in the United States, the Coalition to Stop Opioid Overdose launched today, uniting diverse stakeholders around the common goal of achieving meaningful legislative solutions to address opioid misuse and overdose. The Coalition is composed of leading state and national groups that are committed to advancing meaningful legislative and regulatory policies.

Congress, the Administration, public health agencies and a number of state legislatures have taken important initial steps to combat the opioid epidemic. Last week the House passed 18 bills. In March, a wide-ranging bill was passed by the full Senate and the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) approved additional important legislation, which is pending before the full Senate. Now is the critical time to build on this progress and ensure that comprehensive legislation aimed at addressing opioid misuse, overdose and addiction is passed and funded appropriately, according to R. Corey Waller, MD, DFASAM, Chair of the American Society of Addiction Medicine’s Legislative Advocacy Committee.

“There remains an urgent need for simple and achievable prevention, treatment and recovery policies that can reduce opioid overdose,” says Dr. Waller. “Now is the time for us to come together as a unified group to ensure that Congress sends meaningful legislation to the President’s desk this year.”

The Coalition’s efforts will focus around five key strategies to combat the opioid epidemic:

  • Improving access to medication-assisted treatment for those with opioid addiction
  • Expanding availability of naloxone in health care settings and beyond
  • Implementing enhanced prescription drug monitoring programs that track the dispensing and prescribing of controlled substances
  • Raising the level of opioid prescriber education
  • Enacting the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act

Addiction is a chronic disease that too often goes untreated. More than half of Americans (56 percent) say that they or someone they know has misused, been addicted to, or died from prescription pain medications, according to a recent Kaiser Health Tracking Poll. When patients can’t access treatment and recovery support services, addiction can lead to disability or premature death.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the rate of death from opioid-related overdose has quadrupled since 2000. Drug overdoses are the leading cause of accidental death in the United States, surpassing even traffic fatalities. And emergency room visits linked to misuse of prescription opioids are up by more than 50 percent since 2004.

“Emergency physicians see first-hand the devastating consequences of opioid misuse. We often pick up the pieces, from first-contact psychiatric care to acute resuscitation after overdose,” says Jay Kaplan, MD, FACEP, President of the American College of Emergency Physicians. “We need to do more to prevent these life-shattering, or even life-ending, events.”

The epidemic is compounded by the vast gap in access to opioid addiction treatment. There are three FDA-approved medications approved to treat opioid use disorder. Patients need access to all available options so they can find what works for them; however, current prescribing limits restrict access to one of these treatment options. Additionally, there is a lack of access to medication that can help prevent and reverse opioid overdose.

The Coalition held its inaugural meeting today at the U.S. Capitol Visitor Center in Washington D.C. where speakers, including Dr. Kaplan, Justin Luke Riley, Advocate, Young People in Recovery and Yngvild Olsen, MD, MPH, Director at Large of the American Society of Addiction Medicine, discussed strategies for addressing the opioid epidemic.

The following organizations have joined the Coalition to date, including:

  • American Academy of PAs
  • American Association of Nurse Practitioners
  • American College of Emergency Physicians
  • American Congress of Obstetrics and Gynecology
  • American Medical Student Association
  • American Society of Addiction Medicine
  • Association of Women’s Health, Obstetric and Neonatal Nurses
  • Facing Addiction
  • National Association of Clinical Nurse Specialists
  • National Association of Social Workers
  • The Association of Recovery Schools
  • The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse
  • Young People in Recovery

For more information about the Coalition to Stop Opioid Overdose, please visit http://www.stopopioidoverdose.org/.

About the Coalition to Stop Opioid Overdose

The Coalition to Stop Opioid Overdose is an organization of state and national groups that are committed to advancing meaningful legislative and regulatory policies in response to the opioid epidemic. The Coalition seeks to address the U.S. opioid epidemic by engaging policy makers, public health leaders, chronic pain and addiction specialists, individuals in and seeking recovery and family members, so that legislation and policies get the support needed to pass Congress this year and become law.

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Financial support for the Coalition is provided by the following: Adapt Pharma, The American Society of Addiction Medicine, CleanSlate Centers, Indivior, Merck and Proove.