At the first meeting of the President’s Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis, Governor Roy Cooper urged common sense strategies for the federal government to help combat the opioid crisis. In North Carolina, unintentional opioid, heroin, and fentanyl related deaths increased 816 percent from 1999 – 2015. Almost 10,000 North Carolinians have died from unintentional opioid overdoses since 1999.
Cooper stressed that Congress’ current efforts to roll back health care reforms could jeopardize efforts to stem the epidemic by taking away health care and substance abuse treatment from millions of Americans.
“We can’t arrest our way out of the opioid crisis. Too many people are going through a revolving door of emergency rooms into prison, and we must focus on prevention and treatment,” said Governor Cooper. “But we are kidding ourselves if we think Congress taking healthcare away from millions of Americans won’t make the opioid crisis worse.”
Cooper highlighted collaborative efforts in North Carolina between law enforcement and substance abuse prevention and treatment advocates. The programs help send people with substance abuse toward help rather the criminal justice system. Research has shown that those who get treatment rather than incarceration are 58% less likely to be re-arrested, which saves money and reduces crime.
Governor Cooper also urged the federal government to stop lethal synthetic opioids such as fentanyl from flowing in from foreign markets and stressed the need for makers of generic opioids to create tamper-proof products that prevent users from abusing the pills.
“The opioid crisis is a complex problem, and solving it will require requires collaboration from law enforcement, doctors, drug makers and even families of users to work together,” said Cooper. “It costs our economy in work hours lost and it robs families of their health and security. I’m committed to doing whatever it takes to reverse the epidemic that is raging in too many communities across our state.”
Governor Cooper’s 2017-2018 budget proposal includes more than $12 million in funding to address the opioid crisis through treatment and mental health care. The funds would provide services including individual and group therapy, coupled with medications, to serve approximately 2,500 individuals statewide. His budget also includes $2 million for local law enforcement efforts to fight opioid abuse.
As the state’s former Attorney General, he held pharmaceutical companies accountable for making opioids that were too easily abused. He also pushed for drug take-back initiatives that would incinerate unused prescription drugs safely.
North Carolina recently received a $31 million federal grant through the 21st Century Cures Act to increase access to prevention, treatment, and recovery. The grant is just part of the collaborative work in place to fight the opioid epidemic. Governor Cooper is also signing on to the National Governor’s Association’s Compact to Fight Opioid Addition. The compact is a commitment by governors to build on current efforts to fight the opioid crisis.
The President’s Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis is a bipartisan group of leaders that is chaired by Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey and includes Gov. Charlie Baker of Massachusetts, former Congressman Patrick Kennedy, and Professor Bertha Madras, PhD.