On May 7th, elected officials, educators, healthcare and pharmaceutical professionals, and other stakeholders gathered together for the annual Prescription Drug Safety Network Summit. Hosted by EVERFI, the event facilitated an exchange of ideas concerning the country’s opioid epidemic. The Summit agenda featured speakers from a range of backgrounds and geographies and, while the perspectives were varied in many ways, a clear theme emerged. Speakers consistently appealed for a collective effort—across party lines, industries, and sectors—to solve the opioid and prescription drug abuse crisis.
Both Congresswoman Ann Kuster (D-NH) and Congresswoman Debbie Dingell (D-MI) spoke to bipartisan efforts to address opioid abuse. Congresswoman Kuster co-chairs the Bipartisan Heroin and Opioid Task Force. “Opioids don’t choose between Republicans and Democrats. We’re all in this together and the solutions have to be bipartisan,” said Kuster. If she discovers something that has helped curb the problem in her community, she shares it with her colleagues in congress on both sides of the aisle. Congresswoman Debbie Dingell (D-MI) touched on a bipartisan bill she introduced called Jessie’s Law, which requires the display of a patient’s history of opioid addiction in their medical records.
Senior Counselor to the President Kellyanne Conway emphasized bipartisan support for H.R.6 Support for Patients and Communities Act, enacted in 2018, that outlines a variety of public health reforms to fight the opioid crisis. Conway said H.R.6 is, to her, “the most major piece of bipartisan action” put forth by the current administration. “It shows the model for what can be done when people work together for the greater good.”
Network Partners from the private sector echoed the importance of bipartisanship. Jana Barresi, Senior Director of Federal Government Affairs at Walmart, spoke to the progress she has seen at the federal level. “At a time of much political discord, [the opioid crisis] issue has brought Republicans and Democrats together in support of legislation to help their impacted communities.”
Diversity of Industry
The Summit speakers consistently highlighted the need for interindustry problem-solving. Per Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ), “We cannot overcome the opioid epidemic unless we all work together. Law enforcement, government officials, health providers… We need an all hands on deck approach.” He later added, “Everyone has a role to play in education, prevention, intervention, expanding access to medication-assisted treatment and mental health care, combating the drug trade, and helping those in recovery rebuild their lives.”
Dr. Anton Bizzell, a U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation Fellow, espoused similar sentiments about banding together across industries. “Americans consistently find seeds of solutions in every crisis we’re facing,” he said. “The opioid epidemic is no different. If we bring our resources together and are armed with knowledge and compassion, we will always win.”
A call for the public and private sectors to come together on this issue was reiterated throughout the Summit talks. Sen. Menendez requested increased communication to help improve the federal response and asked the audience to engage with their representatives to “magnify the realities” in their communities. “Share examples of your challenges and provide us with insights as to how we can help you help others.” Sen. Menendez asked that the private sector advocate for health care coverage for more individuals so they can get access to mental health and addiction treatment. He also encouraged a public/private peer-to-peer conversation about how to incentivize hospitals and practitioners to find new and innovative ways to treat pain management.
Ms.Conway urged the private sector to help educate children in a holistic way about opioid and prescription drug safety. She said that private companies “can make a huge impact…by offering an [opt-in] curriculum or toolkit to school districts” and by enlisting local experts, such as health professionals and first responders, to engage with students. Ms. Barresi mentioned Walmart’s work with policymakers and its support for additional regulatory measures, including day supply limits for opioid medications for initial and acute prescriptions. “With all stakeholders working together we can make the biggest impact.”
EVERFI Co-Founder and President Jon Chapman concluded the Summit with a final emphasis on the importance of approaching this issue as a group. “It’s incredibly inspiring to hear about the collective work of so many, from so many different perspectives, to solve this issue,” said Mr. Chapman. “Our mission is urgent and this is just the beginning. As part of the Prescription Drug Safety Network, we are at the forefront of the prevention education effort and that impact is growing every day.”
To learn more about the work of the Prescription Drug Safety Network click here.