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Health advocates from several non-profits and medical associations testified at the White House’s first ever opioid commission on Friday, June 16, chaired by New Jersey Governor Chris Christie.

President Trump created the Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis through an executive order in March 2017 amid a growing opioid epidemic in the United States.

The New York Times estimates that at least 59,000 people died in the U.S. from opioid-based drug overdoses in 2016, compiling from estimates of hundreds of state health departments, county coroners, and medical examiners. The definitive number will not be released from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention until late 2017.

The CDC reports that prescription opioid deaths quadrupled from 1999 to 2014.

Christie lead Friday’s meeting with Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker, North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper, former Representative Patrick Kennedy and Harvard professor of psychobiology Bertha Madras.

Recommendations

Naloxone, marketed as Narcan in the US is available as a nasal spray or pre-filled injection – a device like an EpiPen – is used to stop an opioid overdose should be more readily available, argued Jessica Nickel of Addiction Policy Forum. Some states have made Narcan available without a prescription and have allowed emergency responders, pharmacists, school teachers to administer it onsite.

Nickel also called for insurance companies to be required to help cover the costs of naloxone, buprenorphine (which contains naloxone to decrease overdose and addiction) methadone and other medications approved for opioid addiction.

Dr. Kelly Clark of the American Society of Addiction Medicine called for evidence-based treatment, saying that the “most effective treatment options we have involve the use of medications in combination with specific psychosocial interventions.”

Two themes echoed the most throughout the meeting: understanding the parity between drug abuse and mental health and that current plans to roll back Medicaid expansions could be drastic for those needing help.

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