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Defiance Forum Discusses Opioid Epidemic and Solutions; Latta Highlights Potential Legislation

Bowling Green, OH, October 19, 2017 | Drew Griffin (202-225-6405)
Representatives from federal agencies, local advocates, first responders, and health care professionals discussed obstacles to addressing the opioid epidemic and possible solutions at Defiance College last night at a forum hosted by Congressman Bob Latta (R-Bowling Green). Latta led off the discussion by highlighting legislation that Congress has passed to address the epidemic, such as the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act and the 21st Century Cures Act. In addition, Latta shared that he is working on a bill that would establish an electronic database that would compile and make public information from around the country on efforts to stop the opioid crisis. That information can help federal, state, and local officials develop the most effective strategies to prevent addiction, treat those that are addicted, and keep prescription drugs from falling into the wrong hands.
The first panel of the forum consisted of:
·         Dr. Steve Daviss, Senior Medical Advisor at the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA)
·         Mr. Jeremy Nissen, Agent in Charge at the Toledo Resident Office, Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA)
·         Ms. Verlon Johnson, Acting Regional Director at the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS)
The agency representatives discussed the federal response to the opioid epidemic and how grant funding is being distributed to state governments and local advocates.
The second panel consisted of local law enforcement, advocates, and health care officials. Participating in that panel was:
·         Sheriff Doug Engel, Defiance County Sheriff’s Office
·         Dr. Neeraj Kanwal, President of the ProMedica Defiance Regional Hospital
·         Mr. Les McCaslin, Chief Executive Officer of the Four County Alcohol, Drug Addiction and Mental Health Services (ADAMHS) Board
·         The Honorable Jeff Robinson, Judge at the Fulton County Drug Court
·         Dr. Richard Worthington, Medical Director of the Emergency Department at Mercy Defiance Hospital.
The second panel discussion focused on what is being done locally to provide treatment for those suffering from addiction, and efforts undertaken by law enforcement to restrict the movement of illegal narcotics.
In addition to the forum, the House Energy and Commerce Committee announced yesterday that they will be holding a hearing next week on the opioid epidemic.
“This discussion will be invaluable as the committee I serve on, the Energy and Commerce Committee, continues to discuss effective ways to find solutions to one of the most devastating problems our nation is facing,” said Latta. “The information provided by the federal agencies will also be important to local and state officials that are seeking to obtain grants to combat this epidemic in their communities. Ohio is ground zero for opioid addiction and overdose deaths, and it’s only getting worse. It’s going to take a sustained, comprehensive effort to turn this trend around and save lives.”

In 2016, 4,050 Ohio residents died of unintentional drug overdoses, the highest in the nation and a 32% increase over 2015. More than 64,000 Americans died from drug overdoses in 2016, including illicit drugs and prescription opioids. That number nearly doubled over the past decade, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. The forum followed a hearing last week where Members of Congress testified before the Energy and Commerce Health Subcommittee about how the problem has affected their district and proposals for legislation. Congressman Latta also recently released a public service announcement encouraging people to participate in National Prescription Drug Take Back Day on October 28.
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