Yesterday, June 5th, 2018, was the 3rd Annual Population Health Summit in Bridgewater, New Jersey. The topic was focusing in on utilizing an integrated approach to address the opioid epidemic/crisis. In 2016, there were a total of 64,070 fatal overdoses in the United States, 2,200 of those being in New Jersey, 35 in Morris County. Though the number of overdoses in on the rise, there has been little action to limit the number of prescribing doctors. In New Jersey, we have 1,332 licensed prescribers but only 38 Medication Assistance Treatment (MAT). These numbers do not make sense. New Jersey increases the number of those able to prescribe, yet does not increase the number of treatment facilities that use prescriptions.
Dr. Nash, key note speaker, stated that we need to “shut off the faucet instead of mopping up the mess.” It is important to provide the prevention measures so that we can cut the opioid epidemic off at the source, and prevent people from even starting to use drugs. Dr. Nash also noted that 50% of all opioid users are unemployed and 25% are permanently disabled. This shows that the opioid epidemic needs to be looked at from the very beginning. If we provide resources from the beginning, keeping people healthy all around, it could limit the amount of people getting involved in drugs. Furthermore, it is important to address the institutional racism that has caused minorities and lower income persons to be pushed further and further away from medical care access.
The key component of the summit was to note that prevention and intervention is not a one person job. It is important for the law makers, family services, treatment centers, insurance companies, and caregivers to work together. Addressing the epidemic is a team sport, and is something that influences the entire population.