Obama joins fight against opioid abuse

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ATLANTA — Lending his voice to the fight against a drug scourge that kills 28,000 Americans a year,President Obama told nearly 2,000 policymakers, professionals and parents Tuesday that the nation must provide more treatment for people addicted to opioids and reframe the addiction problem through the lens of public health.

“The most important thing we can do is reduce demand for drugs, and the only way that we reduce demand is by providing treatment and thinking about this as a public health problem and not just a criminal issue,” Obama said during a panel discussion at the 2016 National Rx Drug Abuse & Heroin Summit.

“Part of what has made it difficult to emphasize treatment over criminal justice system has to do with the fact that the populations affected in the past were … stereotypically identified as poor and minority,” he said. “And as a consequence, the thinking was it is often a character flaw in those individuals who live in those communities. … One of the things that’s changed … is a recognition that this reaches everybody.”

Given its widespread reach, administration officials announced a wide range of actions to fight the epidemic, such as expanding access to drug treatment, bolstering efforts to ensure health coverage for substance abuse and mental health are on par with benefits for other medical services, investing in partnerships between law enforcement and communities, and providing guidance on using federal funds to start or expand needle exchanges.

 

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