President Barack Obama attended the National Prescription Drug Abuse and Heroin Summit held in Atlanta on Tuesday. The president along with other health experts including Dr. Sanjay Gupta addressed issues surrounding drug abuse in America. The President, saying he’s committed to expanding services for drug addiction and mental health, unveiled initiatives that along with a $1.1 billion proposal to Congress will tackle drug abuse and potentially save lives.
The president said,
This is something that has been a top priority of ours for quite some time. My job is to promote the safety, the health, the prosperity of the American people. And that encompasses a whole range of things. It means that we’re tracking down ISIL leaders, and it means that we’re responding to natural disasters, and it means that we’re trying to promote a strong economy. And when you look at the staggering statistics in terms of lives lost, productivity impacted, costs to communities, but most importantly, cost to families from this epidemic of opioids abuse, it has to be something that is right up there at the top of our radar screen.
Part of the President’s plan is to change the long held strategy of incarcerating addicts to pushing for more funding to provide treatment. In the Atlanta metro area a new diversion program was created that intervenes before people even go into the criminal justice system. Prosecutors and police have the ability to divert suspects accused of nonviolent crimes to the program thereby avoiding jail. People participating in the program may receive mental health counseling, job training and or drug addiction services.
One of the initiatives discussed by the panel are new guidelines in prescribing opioids. The President talked about educating physicians to prevent abuse in prescribing drugs. The president said,
Concentrating on physician education in terms of how they prescribe painkillers to prevent abuse. Making sure that the treatment…. Medication Assisted Treatment programs are more widely available to more people. Making sure that the… antidote, but at least means of preventing people once they have overdosed from actually dying is being carried by EMTs. So we’re taking a number of steps. But, frankly, we’re still under-resourced.
The National Institute on Drug Abuse found that in 2013 that Atlanta heroin abusers who sought treatment rose by 5.8 percent as other types of drug abuse decreased slightly during the same year. It is believed that a change in how the war on drugs is fought may help bring those overall numbers down significantly.