CENTER CITY, MINN. (October 21, 2015) — The Hazelden Betty Ford Institute for Recovery Advocacy applauded President Obama's announcement today in West Virginia that he would require federal agencies to provide training to doctors and nurses who work for the federal government on how to properly prescribe opioid pain medications.
It was among several new efforts announced by the President to address the national opioid epidemic.
"The President's announcement today is welcome news to advocates like us and a spark of hope for families everywhere," said Nick Motu, Vice President of the Institute for Recovery Advocacy. "The Hazelden Betty Ford Institute for Recovery Advocacy has made addressing the heroin and prescription opioid crisis a focus of the advocacy efforts at our organization.
"After a long year of policy and public education campaigns, we are grateful to see a strong federal response to this crisis, which now claims more lives than car accidents."
Earlier this month, the Institute held a Capitol Hill symposium on the topic of expanding prescriber education around opioids and addiction. The event included testimony from experts at the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation and Mayo Clinic, White House Director of National Drug Control Policy Michael Botticelli and four U.S. senators, including West Virginia Sens. Joe Manchin and Shelley Moore-Capito, who were with Director Botticelli and the president for today's announcement.
"While opioids are effective medications for acute pain, we have to be very careful with them because they are highly addictive," said Marvin D. Seppala, Chief Medical Officer for the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation, who spoke at that earlier event. "Prescribers should use alternative pain treatments whenever possible. We also need to teach them that when they do need to prescribe opioids, it's important to limit prescription amounts, review the risks of addiction and overdose, and then watch for signs of misuse and intervene when necessary."
In addition to mandating education on safe prescribing practices for federally employed doctors, nurses and other prescribers, President Obama announced that 40 health care provider groups, including the American Medical Association, have committed to providing opioid prescriber training to more than 540,000 prescribers in the next two years.
The group of 40 also committed to doubling the number of providers who prescribe naloxone, a drug that can reverse an opioid overdose; doubling the number of doctors certified to prescribe buprenorphine as part of a treatment protocol for opioid use disorder; and doubling participation in state prescription drug monitoring programs.
Mr. Obama also announced that CBS, ABC, the New York Times, Google, the National Basketball Association, Major League Baseball and other companies will donate millions of dollars in media space for PSAs produced by the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids about the risks of prescription drug misuse.
"These are all wonderful efforts that will help in fighting the opioid epidemic," Motu said. "We urge Congress to follow the President's lead by taking action on related legislation that is pending there - bills like the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act, which addresses prevention, law enforcement strategies, expansion of evidence-based treatment and support for those in or seeking recovery."
Opioids are a class of prescription pain medications that includes hydrocodone, oxycodone, morphine, and methadone. Health care providers wrote 259 million prescriptions for opioid pain medications in 2012 - enough for every American adult to have a bottle of pills. Heroin belongs to the same class of drugs, and four in five heroin users started out by misusing prescription opioid pain medications.
About the Hazelden Betty Ford Institute for Recovery Advocacy
Our mission is to provide a leading national voice on all issues related to addiction prevention, treatment and recovery and to facilitate conversation among those in recovery, those still suffering and society at large. We are committed to smashing stigma, shaping public policy and educating people everywhere about the problems of addiction and the promise of recovery.
The Hazelden Betty Ford Institute for Recovery Advocacy is part of the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation, the nation's largest nonprofit treatment provider. With a legacy that began in 1949 and includes the 1982 founding of the Betty Ford Center, the Foundation has 16 sites in California, Minnesota, Oregon, Illinois, New York, Florida, Massachusetts, Colorado and Texas.