Former New York City Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg is calling upon Congress to take drastic action in combating America’s Opioid Crisis -- and calling to the carpet all those complicit in making necessary such drastic action.
The call, “A Seven-Step Plan for Ending the Opioid Crisis,” rings as loud and as clear as should any nationwide alarm. It’s also as clear-cut as the crisis is dire.
“We must stop doctors from over-prescribing opioids”, begins Step 1 of Bloomberg’s Plan, “especially when non-addictive pain medications would be just as effective. [T]he prescription rate... remains three times what it was in 1999 -- and four times what it is in Europe.”
“The Food and Drug Administration should allow only doctors who complete specialized education in pain management to prescribe opioids for more than a few days.”
Step 2: “Insurers and pharmacy benefit managers must better oversee opioid prescriptions.”
“CVS Caremark has moved to limit coverage for opioid prescriptions. Others should follow its lead. These companies exist to help people lead better, healthier lives, and they should not be complicit actors in an addiction and overdose epidemic.”
Step 3: “We must hold pharmaceutical companies accountable for the supply of prescription opioids.”
“Like gun manufacturers that continue to supply dealers with a history of selling to traffickers, pharmaceutical companies and their distributors have a history of turning a blind eye to pill mills.”
Step 4” “We must start treating those with addiction disorders when they come in contact with emergency rooms, hospitals and clinics.”
“Too often, those who overdose are not offered long-term treatment because the hospitals they are taken to do not provide it. Many walk out the door looking for their next hit, with fatal consequences.”
Step 5: “We must stop stigmatizing the medications that have been proven to help people recover.”
“The stigmatization of medication is especially problematic for our criminal justice system. Each year, about one-third of heroin users spend time locked up, yet the federal government, and the vast majority of states and localities, do not offer them medication-assisted treatment while they are behind bars. That treatment, when linked to addiction services after release, boosts the odds of putting their lives back together and reduces the likelihood that they will return to crime.”
Step 6: “We must develop better data.”
“Existing statistics on misuse and overdose are out of date and often inaccurate. In many communities, relevant data is gathered only when people are arrested, or when they die from overdoses -- or not at all.”
Step 7: “We must do more to block the importation of heroin -- and of fentanyl, much of which originates in China.”
“Government by symbolism doesn't solve real problems.”
Whether or not Bloomberg’s Plan prefaces a run for the presidency doesn’t mitigate the necessity for such drastic action; nor does it mean the former mayor is merely playing the blame game. Bloomberg’s own American Health Initiative has made “an unprecedented investment” in tackling “health threats facing the United States. And it is through such benevolent efforts that these common sense recommendations arise.
“This is a solvable problem,” writes Bloomberg, “and through philanthropy we can make some progress. But real success requires much bolder leadership -- and a far greater sense of urgency -- from both elected officials and industry leaders.”
As an addiction treatment center, we at Recovery Boot Camp naturally applaud Bloomberg's call to end the opioid crisis, as well as his action. And as our programs here and in conjunction with our adjacent Healing Properties sober-living facility make clear, we're not only continuing to answer that call, we're also taking action, by every means necessary.