Epidemic Proportions

Grasp of opioid crisis reaches all social strata By Christopher Nagy   It’s not a battle; it’s a war for the health and well-being of the community, according to Joel Strasz. “Battles take days and weeks, sometimes months. The problem of opioid addiction will take years to overcome,” said the public health director of the Bay County Health Department. “… We cannot arrest our way out of it or wish it away or think of it as moral shortcomings of certain individuals. We need to change the way that we approach and combat this insidious enemy as a real disease that affects real people in our community. Those that are addicted are our neighbors, friends and families – brothers, sisters, children, parents and loved ones.” Rich or poor, urban or rural; regardless of social status or standing, opioid addiction is an equal opportunity epidemic that has grown into the albatross of a nation. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Acting Secretary Eric D. Hargan issued a statement in October 2017 declaring the opioid crisis in the United States a national public health emergency. The Bay County Health Department had already issued a public health advisory on the crisis two years earlier in 2015. Strasz acknowledged the issue is a driving force behind a significant percentage of crime that law enforcement is dealing with; however, the ramifications of the opioid crisis have also filtered down to the workplace in terms of lost work and low productivity. Plus, employers are struggling to deal with employee needs for those addicted in terms of treatment and rehabilitation as overdoses and suicides climb. “In some communities, the death rate is so substantial that life expectancy has dropped,” Strasz said. Michigan is tracking ahead of the national average in terms of opioid-related overdose deaths as well as the number of opioid pain reliever prescriptions issued to patients, according to figures on the National Institute on Drug Abuse website. “Honestly, I don’t know a person in the surrounding area that doesn’t know someone or some family that haven’t struggled with addiction at some level,” Strasz said. “The epidemic has certainly brought the issues of addiction to the forefront, and now we as a community must confront it.” The Bay County Health Department has partnered with county law enforcement and other community stakeholders to combat the problem along three objectives: equipping first responders with overdose-reversal medication, increase the number of providers that screen for substance abuse and treat addiction, and educate the community and judicial system to open opportunities for treatment over incarceration. “Finally, we realize that this just isn’t happening in a vacuum in Bay County, so we are working with other neighboring communities within the Great Lakes Region in a coordinated and systematic manner,” Strasz said. Although the opioid epidemic has torn families apart and wracked communities to the core, Strasz said there is a silver lining to the issue: a raised consciousness and level of empathy. “The one good thing out of all of this is that it brought the topic of addiction into the open and we are talking about it in humane terms within the context of what it actually is – a complex medical and psychological issue rather than simply moral shortcomings,” he said.   The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Five-Point Strategy to Combat the Opioid Crisis  
  • Improve access to treatment and recovery services Ninety percent of Americans struggling with addiction are currently not getting treatment.
  • Promote use of overdose-reversing drugs Drugs such as naloxone can reverse the effects of an overdose and pull someone from the brink.
  • Strengthen understanding of the epidemic A key role the department plays in any epidemic is providing information and performing research.
  • Provide support for research on pain and addiction To avoid creating dependence, the approach to pain management must be revisited and rethought.
  • Advance better practices for pain management Ensure doctors aren’t being pushed toward quick fixes that risk the lives of their patients.

Grasp of opioid crisis reaches all social strata
By Christopher Nagy

 

It’s not a battle; it’s a war for the health and well-being of the community, according to Joel Strasz.

“Battles take days and weeks, sometimes months. The problem of opioid addiction will take years to overcome,” said the public health director of the Bay County Health Department. “… We cannot arrest our way out of it or wish it away or think of it as moral shortcomings of certain individuals. We need to change the way that we approach and combat this insidious enemy as a real disease that affects real people in our community. Those that are addicted are our neighbors, friends and families – brothers, sisters, children, parents and loved ones.”

Rich or poor, urban or rural; regardless of social status or standing, opioid addiction is an equal opportunity epidemic that has grown into the albatross of a nation. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Acting Secretary Eric D. Hargan issued a statement in October 2017 declaring the opioid crisis in the United States a national public health emergency. The Bay County Health Department had already issued a public health advisory on the crisis two years earlier in 2015.

Strasz acknowledged the issue is a driving force behind a significant percentage of crime that law enforcement is dealing with; however, the ramifications of the opioid crisis have also filtered down to the workplace in terms of lost work and low productivity. Plus, employers are struggling to deal with employee needs for those addicted in terms of treatment and rehabilitation as overdoses and suicides climb.

“In some communities, the death rate is so substantial that life expectancy has dropped,” Strasz said.

Michigan is tracking ahead of the national average in terms of opioid-related overdose deaths as well as the number of opioid pain reliever prescriptions issued to patients, according to figures on the National Institute on Drug Abuse website.

“Honestly, I don’t know a person in the surrounding area that doesn’t know someone or some family that haven’t struggled with addiction at some level,” Strasz said. “The epidemic has certainly brought the issues of addiction to the forefront, and now we as a community must confront it.”

The Bay County Health Department has partnered with county law enforcement and other community stakeholders to combat the problem along three objectives: equipping first responders with overdose-reversal medication, increase the number of providers that screen for substance abuse and treat addiction, and educate the community and judicial system to open opportunities for treatment over incarceration.

“Finally, we realize that this just isn’t happening in a vacuum in Bay County, so we are working with other neighboring communities within the Great Lakes Region in a coordinated and systematic manner,” Strasz said.

Although the opioid epidemic has torn families apart and wracked communities to the core, Strasz said there is a silver lining to the issue: a raised consciousness and level of empathy.

“The one good thing out of all of this is that it brought the topic of addiction into the open and we are talking about it in humane terms within the context of what it actually is – a complex medical and psychological issue rather than simply moral shortcomings,” he said.

 

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Five-Point Strategy to Combat the Opioid Crisis

 

  • Improve access to treatment and recovery services
    Ninety percent of Americans struggling with addiction are currently not getting treatment.
  • Promote use of overdose-reversing drugs
    Drugs such as naloxone can reverse the effects of an overdose and pull someone from the brink.
  • Strengthen understanding of the epidemic
    A key role the department plays in any epidemic is providing information and performing research.
  • Provide support for research on pain and addiction
    To avoid creating dependence, the approach to pain management must be revisited and rethought.
  • Advance better practices for pain management
    Ensure doctors aren’t being pushed toward quick fixes that risk the lives of their patients.

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