Also yesterday, Attorney General Loretta Lynch, Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, and Director of National Drug Control Policy Michael Botticelli, joined parents who lost children to overdose to discuss Prescription Opioid and Heroin Epidemic Awareness Week. Parents from across the country met at the White House with Secretary Vilsack and Director Botticelli to share their experiences and efforts to address the opioid epidemic.
President Obama proclaimed September 18-24, 2016, as Prescription Opioid and Heroin Epidemic Awareness Week. During this week, Attorney General Lynch and other Justice Department officials—as well as U.S. Attorney’s Offices and Bureau of Prison facilities across the country—will participate in over 250 different events highlighting the importance of prevention, enforcement, and treatment. The Department of Agriculture will host state forums on the epidemic in Connecticut and Colorado. Secretary of Veterans Affairs Robert McDonald will lead a forum in Washington, DC, on treatment and support for veterans with opioid use disorder. (The Proclamation is attached.)
During yesterday’s gathering of law enforcement at CRPD, United States Attorney Kevin W. Techau provided a summary of the key points discussed at the National Heroin Conference, which was held in Minneapolis, MN earlier in the month. At that conference, the emerging problem of fentanyl, a powerful synthetic opioid that is blamed for a surge of deaths in some parts of the country—including the recent overdose death of Prince—was highlighted at the conference. Speakers at the conference indicated that a multipronged approach was necessary to keep more people from becoming addicted. Techau noted, “We are in the midst of an opioid crisis in our country. Iowa is not immune from problems created by heroin and opioid abuse. A multidisciplinary approach that includes federal, state, and local community agencies is needed to maximize the prevention, law enforcement, and treatment dimensions to meet this challenge.”
CRPD Officer and Coordinator of the Eastern Iowa Heroin Initiative, Al Fear, discussed his efforts to engage and encourage communities to become active partners in fighting back this threat. Citizen involvement at Town Halls held across Eastern Iowa have heard from medical and social service professionals, as well as law enforcement and prosecutors. The FBI and DEA documentary, Chasing the Dragon: The Life of an Opiate Addict, has been shown. A “Call to Action” has been introduced during each community meeting. The pill take back initiative was also updated, which offers Iowans year around opportunities to discard unused, expired and unwanted medications at locations around the state. To find those locations, access the website above and select the same link. Other program initiatives and law changes were discussed. To learn more about these initiatives, visit: www.facebook.com/EasternIowaHeroinInitiative.
Director Dale Woolery with the Governor’s Office of Drug Control Policy also provided updates on the Iowa Office of Drug Control Policy’s initiatives and programs.
The meeting closed with a discussion of the way ahead. Training initiatives with local law enforcement to better understand the administration of Narcan were highlighted. Future town halls and public gatherings will continue to be used to engage and encourage area communities to join the fight against this threat.
PRESCRIPTION OPIOID AND HEROIN EPIDEMIC AWARENESS WEEK
BY THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
Each year, more Americans die from drug overdoses than in traffic accidents, and more than three out of five of these deaths involve an opioid. Since 1999, the number of overdose deaths involving opioids, including prescription opioid pain relievers, heroin, and fentanyl, has nearly quadrupled. Many people who die from an overdose struggle with an opioid use disorder or other substance use disorder, and unfortunately misconceptions surrounding these disorders have contributed to harmful stigmas that prevent individuals from seeking evidence-based treatment. During Prescription Opioid and Heroin Epidemic Awareness Week, we pause to remember all those we have lost to opioid use disorder, we stand with the courageous individuals in recovery, and we recognize the importance of raising awareness of this epidemic.
Opioid use disorder, or addiction to prescription opioids or heroin, is a disease that touches too many of our communities — big and small, urban and rural — and devastates families, all while straining the capacity of law enforcement and the health care system. States and localities across our country, in collaboration with Federal and national partners, are working together to address this issue through innovative partnerships between public safety and public health professionals. The Federal Government is bolstering efforts to expand treatment and opioid abuse prevention activities, and we are working alongside law enforcement to help get more people into treatment instead of jail.
My Administration is steadfast in its commitment to reduce overdose deaths and get more Americans the help they need. That is why I continue to call on the Congress to provide $1.1 billion to expand access to treatment services for opioid use disorder. These new investments would build on the steps we have already taken to expand overdose prevention strategies, and increase access to naloxone– the the overdose reversal drug that first responders and community members are using to save lives. We are also working to improve opioid prescribing practices and support targeted enforcement activities. Although Federal agencies will continue using all available tools to address opioid use disorder and overdose, the Congress must act quickly to help more individuals get the treatment they need — because the longer we go without congressional action on this funding, the more opportunities we miss to save lives.
Too often, we expect people struggling with substance use disorders to self- diagnose and seek treatment. And although we have made great strides in helping more Americans access care, far too many still lack appropriate, evidence-based treatment. This week, we reaffirm our commitment to raising awareness about this disease and supporting prevention and treatment programs. Let us ensure everyone with an opioid use disorder can embark on the road to recovery, and together, let us begin to turn the tide of this epidemic.
NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim September 18 through September 24, 2016, as Prescription Opioid and Heroin Epidemic Awareness Week. I call upon all Americans to observe this week with appropriate programs, ceremonies, and activities that raise awareness about the prescription opioid and heroin epidemic.
IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this sixteenth day of September, in the year of our Lord two thousand sixteen, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and forty-first.