- By Jessica Wehrman
- Jack Torry Washington Bureau
White House officials sought to assure those affected by the opioid epidemic Thursday that virtually every cabinet agency was working on how best to alleviate the crisis.
At a White House summit on opioid abuse, Greg Delaney, the outreach coordinator for Woodhaven Recovery in Dayton, joined 200 affected by the crisis to discuss the Trump administration’s effort to fight the opioid epidemic. Delaney, who celebrated 10 years of recovery in July, now works with faith leaders to help solve the crisis.
“I nearly lost my life to addiction,” he told a panel that included Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar, Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Ben Carson and Secretary of Veterans Affairs David Shulkin. “And while I was coming through recovery, the work of a pastor made all the difference for me.”
Delaney, the faith coordinator for Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine’s Heroin Unit, has organized roughly 60 forums with faith leaders to help them learn how to address the opioid epidemic. But speaking to the panel Thursday, he asked for help navigating funding to help them figure out how to help.
“How can we eliminate some of the perceived or real barriers to some of this funding for those doing great grass-roots work at the faith-based level?” he asked.
Carson said the White House “has made very significant efforts” to protect the faith-based community, and said the effort to address the epidemic should include the faith-based community. Azar, meanwhile, encouraged Delaney to reach out to his department. “We’d like to know if we’re getting in the way,” he said.
The summit followed up on an October directive by President Donald Trump declaring the crisis a nationwide public health emergency. During his announcement, he directed his entire administration to take steps to fight the epidemic. On Thursday, First Lady Melania Trump opened the summit, declaring the administration’s goal as “helping all affected by drug addiction.”
Less than a half a mile away, Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, touted a bill aimed at slowing the rate of people who get addicted to pills.
Portman, along with a bipartisan group of senators, introduced the bill this week that would impose a three-day limit on the initial prescription of opioids for acute pain. After three days, the patient would have to return to the doctor to get a new prescription. An exception would be made for chronic pain.
Speaking to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Portman called for a “combined and unified effort that starts in our communities and extends all the way to the U.S. Capitol.”
“Make no mistake — the hard and important work must be done in our communities,” Portman said. “Washington can certainly be a better partner and assist in these efforts, but the solutions will not come from Washington alone.”
Portman said the opioid crisis hits individual families, but also hurts the economy. He said the business executives in the audience “will tell you that addiction and the inability for workers to pass a drug test is a major reason they cannot fill vacant positions.”
Portman said Americans need to understand “that addiction is a disease that is too often not treated as such. Recovery results are better with continuous support, and we need to ensure policies are in place to close the gaps that people often fall through when attempting to overcome their addiction.”