CLEVELAND, OH —U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) called for a full-scale public health campaign to address the opioid epidemic in a speech to the Cleveland City Club today. In the speech entitled, “Working Together to Win the Fight against Addiction: What History Teaches Us about How to Solve the Opioid Crisis,” Brown said a comprehensive, coordinated, and sustained public health campaign should consist of three parts:
- Education and Prevention,
- Treatment, and
Brown outlined lessons learned from past successful public health campaigns to combat everything from Ebola to tobacco usage, AIDS and heart disease.
“This is a public health emergency. Today, I’m calling for a comprehensive, coordinated, and sustained public health campaign to fight it through education and prevention, treatment, and recovery. We cannot accept that life expectancy will continue to decline. That families will continue to be torn apart. That entire communities will be written off. And we don’t have to. We can take the lessons of the past and apply them to the opioid crisis today,” Brown said.
“We need a full-scale, comprehensive, coordinated public health campaign, designed by experts at the CDC, NIH, and the Office of National Drug Control Policy, informed by data, and coordinated across public and private entities. The Administration must step up, put partisanship aside, put experts in charge, and launch a public health campaign that will endure beyond the next election cycle. We have the best scientists and public health professionals in the world. We have the know-how. We need the political will.”
Brown also announced new, bipartisan legislation to address the workforce shortages created by the addiction epidemic. Brown developed the bill after hearing from mayors across Ohio that employers are having trouble finding workers who can pass drug tests, while Ohioans struggling with addiction can’t find a job to help them get back on their feet.
Brown’s bill will combine existing grant programs at the Department of Labor and the Department of Health and Human Services so that job training and addiction recovery services can work together. He will introduce his legislation, the CARE Act, later this week with Republican Senator Shelly Moore Capito of West Virginia.
“We already have federal grant programs that support addiction treatment. And we have programs that fund workforce training. We know these programs can be successful separately, but this crisis requires them to work together,” Brown said.
Brown also discussed the need to stop deadly synthetic drugs like fentanyl from entering the border. Brown’s INTERDICT Act, which President Trump signed into law earlier this year, will allow Customs and Border Agents to buy new seeing equipment to stop fentanyl at the border and keep it out of Ohio communities. Brown said law enforcement can employ many of the same tactics learned from tracking the spread of AIDS and Ebola to track the flow of fentanyl and the resulting overdoses.
Brown helped secure opioid funding that will specifically prioritize states like Ohio, hit hardest by addiction, in the spending bill Congress passed last month.
Today, Brown called for:
EDUCATION AND PREVENTION
“Drug companies must be held accountable. There is no reason they should be able to advertise addictive substances directly to patients, much less get a tax credit for it. We held big tobacco accountable for its past abuses. Pharmaceutical companies played a role in fueling this crisis and they are going to have to play a role in solving it.” - Brown
- Holding drug companies and others across the supply chain accountable.
- A targeted public ad campaign modeled off of successful efforts against tobacco. Brown said any ad campaign must be targeted and tested to ensure it is effective.
- Greater investment in public-private partnerships to develop safe, non-addictive pain treatments, combined with policies to encourage doctors to prescribe alternative treatments and require insurance companies to cover them.
- Better tracking of opioid addiction data that can be used to help target and prevent addiction.
“Of course, no matter how much education and prevention we do, some people will become addicted. We have to make it just as easy for Ohioans to seek treatment as it is to get opioids.” - Brown
- Investing in research and development to ensure more Medication Assisted Treatment options, allowing more doctors to prescribe them, and requiring insurance companies to cover them.
- Making more treatment beds available by lifting the Medicaid 16 bed rule that keeps Ohioans from getting treatment. Brown has a bipartisan bill with Senator Portman to lift the current restriction and he called on President Trump to take action.
- Expanding successful programs in Ohio that partner law enforcement with treatment facilities and case managers to get overdose victims into treatment immediately.
- Funding community health centers and community mental health centers, as well as other providers across the health care safety net, to ensure they have the tools they need to meet demand for treatment and protecting the Medicaid expansion so patients can access treatment.
“If we do this right, hundreds of thousands more Americans will never use an opioid. But there will be hundreds of thousands more who have used opioids, but whose lives are not lost or ruined, who are living with and managing their addiction.” - Brown
- Addressing opioid addiction like a chronic condition we can manage, similar to how we manage heart disease, including making long-term treatment and recovery supports available.
- Encouraging doctors to screen for struggles with addiction or a family history of addiction the same way they screen for heart disease or allergies.
- Ending professionally-induced relapses, by screening patients for addiction before prescribing pain medication following surgeries and other treatments.
Read Brown’s full speech HERE.