Surgeon general, hospitals team up to combat opioid abuse
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SAN DIEGO—Saying there is still a lot of "low-hanging fruit," U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Jerome Adams Friday announced that his office will partner with the American Hospital Association to further combat the opioid epidemic.
Speaking at the AHA's Leadership Summit in San Diego, Adams was short on details about the collaboration, other than saying that it will launch this fall. There's no formal arrangement in place at this point. AHA officials did not lay out specific actions items either, but suggested that work will could center around education materials and spreading best practices.
Adams also told the gathering of hospital leaders that they need to tap into nontraditional partnerships with businesses, faith-based organizations and others in their communities to make more headway in turning the tide on opioid abuse.
Collaborating with community leaders is part of Adams' broader strategy for addressing the crisis. In outlining that strategy, he noted that it is important to address prevention and to destigmatize public perception around people struggling with substance abuse.
A third leg of his strategy is beginning to show some payoff by creating more demand for naloxone. The surgeon general in April took the rare step of issuing a public health advisory—the first in 13 years—urging not just wider access to the overdose antidote, but for more people to carry it. During his AHA speech, Adams suggested that being able to help someone overdosing should come to be as common being able to preform CPR.
"Since its release, we have seen an unprecedented increase in the number of retail-dispensed prescriptions for naloxone—over 40% just in the first month after the naloxone advisory," he said. "We have also garnered commitments from states, pharma, retailers and community organizations to make naloxone more accessible to people in the community."
Adams also called on hospital leaders to become more active in talking about the relationship between health issues and economics. While he touched on social determinants, his call to action was more specific.
He recalled a time when he was Indiana's health commissioner and the state was considering raising taxes on cigarettes. No one disputed the health dangers of smoking, but small business owners—such as gas stations and convenience stores—detailed the financial hit they would take if prices shot up. Hospital leaders need to combat that kind of rhetoric with their own data on health and a community's overall economy.
"Hospitals need to show up as not just providers, but as large employers," he said. "Use your influence as a business leader."
The surgeon general plans to issue a request for information in the coming weeks to solicit data from providers on community health.
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