If I could give some FREE ADVICE to the newly appointed Opiate Czar:
With the White House’s recent announcement that President Trump is considering appointing Kellyanne Conway as Opiate Czar as some are reporting, or if she is simply the point person to help direct the Presidents policy on the Opiate Epidemic in America. If I were given the opportunity to sit down with her, I would share the following advice!
Remember the numbers keep rising according to the CDC: The National Center for Health Statistics estimated 52,898 Opiate overdose related deaths in 2016 (these numbers are not conclusive due to all the data not being in) and it is a good possibility that this number could rise. Some health care professionals and those in Law Enforcement are reporting these numbers could top 70,000 in 2017!
What should be the government policy or agenda as I see it!
1) Treatment for those that are abusing Opiates, either prescribed by a doctor or drugs such as Heroin and other opiates they are buying from dealers off the street. In the state of Ohio, I work as an Alcohol and Drug counselor and they have a mandatory policy for those stopped for DUI (Driving under the influence of alcohol) the person must go through a 3 day education program and evaluation for possible need of further treatment.
I would propose a similar law for Opiates, if a person overdoses and 911 is called or the person is taken to the emergency room the person must undergo an evaluation by a professional addictions counselor and determine if treatment is needed. No, I am not trying to build up the profits of Alcohol and Drug counselors across the country. My recommendation is simply based on the fact that from my experience, most people will not seek help for Opiate Addiction until forced to either by the court, family or friends, or health related issues.
I’m going to inject a personal thought here when it comes to treatment, which some will not agree with me and others will say Amen!
It is time for the government (including federal, state, and local) to get out of the way and let the Faith Based Treatment organizations do what they do best. There are studies upon studies, that show organizations such as Teen Challenge, Rescue Missions, Salvation Army, and many more have great success rates in helping individuals address the Opiate Addiction. There should be a push to provide funding to these organization’s with no strings attached (if they want to pray with the individual, share a Bible verse, or disciple them in their Christian walk, or any other faith walk) they should be able to help the person get clean, and develop a sober life style.
2) Dealers/Pushers: Sadly, there are individuals that make a profit from the suffering of others: There are two types of Dealers/Pushers; 1 is considered legal and other is illegal. However, the reality is they both need to be stopped.
· First is the doctor with his prescription pad! Do not misunderstand me, I thank God for the doctor’s ability to write prescriptions for pain medication and over the past 40 years I have used it more than I care to admit. With having 13 knees injures, including two total knee replacements, Achilles tendon surgery, and kidney stones. I have used my fair share! However, I have also been very lucky that the doctors I had would monitor my use and would not allow me to stay on the drug very long after the surgery.
In my opinion those doctors that give Opiates out like candy are guilty of ethical violations, as well as breaking the law. In addition, they should be held accountable, and even charged with a crime.
· Second is the street dealer! Selling Opiates is serious, and those that do it need to be held accountable both legally as well as punitively. In my personal opinion if someone is dealing Opiates and someone he/she sold to dies, he/she should be charged with manslaughter. In addition, the family should be able to sue the individuals that have property and money.
3) Education: From first grade on drug education should be a part of the everyday fabric of our educational system. However, education should be based on the facts of what the drugs do both physically, and mentally to the individuals and not based on the bias opinion of the instructor or those that have a political agenda for legalization.
We should also be educating those that are being impacted by this national epidemic such as family, friends, co-workers and etc. We should be educating them on what to watch for, and other key information such as where to lead, help, and take your friend or loved one to get help.
Rev. Don Allen, PhD, LICDC-CS has been an Alcohol and Drug counselor in the State of Ohio, for over 25 years and has worked with individuals within the Christian recovery community, secular inpatient, and outpatient programs, as well for the past 13 years working for the State of Ohio Department Mental Health and Addictions within a State Psychiatric Hospital. He is also the author of the book The Drug Epidemic and the Impact on our Families and Churches!