Coalition To Stop Opioid Overdose Focuses On Prevention, Treatment Policy Reform In Washington

By John Lavitt 06/07/16

The Coalition hopes to expand naloxone availability, improve access to medication-assisted treatment, implementing and help to effectively enact CARA.

Coalition To Stop Opioid Overdose Focuses On Prevention, Treatment Policy Reform In Washington
Inaugural Meeting of the Coalition to Stop Opioid Overdose Photo Sharon Farmer Photography

Efforts to pass legislation intended to improve and expand addiction treatment are still under way in Congress. There are still some major hurdles to clear—like securing actual funding for these programs—but a new coalition of treatment professionals and advocates hopes to build on this progress, uniting around the common goal of supporting meaningful policies to address opioid misuse and overdose.

The Coalition to Stop Opioid Overdose was launched in May, and is composed of a group of leading organizations like the American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM), the American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP), Young People in Recovery (YPR) and the American Association of Nurse Practitioners (AANP).  

The advocacy group is focused on five key strategies, according to a statement on the Coalition's website. These key strategies include improving access to medication-assisted treatment, expanding availability of the overdose antidote naloxone, improving and expanding prescription drug monitoring programs, increasing opioid prescriber education, and helping to effectively enact the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA).

"There remains an urgent need for simple and achievable prevention, treatment and recovery policies that can reduce opioid overdose," said Dr. R. Corey Waller, Chair of ASAM's Legislative Advocacy Committee. "Now is the time for us to come together as a unified group to ensure that Congress sends meaningful legislation to the President’s desk this year."

Drug overdose is now the leading cause of accidental death in the United States, and this is largely driven by opioid misuse. In 2014, there were 47,055 fatal drug overdoses; 18,893 of them were related to prescription pain medication and 10,574 of them were related to heroin, according to ASAM.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, roughly 129 Americans died from a drug overdose every day in 2014. According to a November 2015 Kaiser Health Tracking Poll, more than half of Americans (56%) say that they or someone they know has misused, been addicted to, or died from prescription pain medication overdose.

“When we look at the opioid epidemic—which has gotten the attention of lawmakers—but also substance use disorder and addiction in general, we know that in order to effectively address them, we need prevention, treatment and recovery support services,” said Yngvild Olsen, who chairs the ASAM Public Policy Committee.

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Growing up in Manhattan as a stutterer, John Lavitt discovered that writing was the best way to express himself when the words would not come. After graduating with honors from Brown University, he lived on the Greek island of Patmos, studying with his mentor, the late American poet Robert Lax. As a writer, John’s published work includes three articles in Chicken Soup For The Soul volumes and poems in multiple poetry journals and compilations. Active in recovery, John has been the Treatment Professional News Editor for The Fix. Since 2015, he has published over 500 articles on the addiction and recovery news website. Today, he lives in Los Angeles, trying his best to be happy and creative. Find John on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.