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Discussing The Opioid Epidemic

On Monday, April 9th, our only event was a City Club luncheon during which U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown discussed the opioid crisis and the lessons that we can learn from history in terms of fighting it.

Prior to U.S. Senator Brown's speech, City Club President and CEO Mr. Dan Moulthrop observed that the U.S. Senator was one of the few people who could gather such a huge crowd together at the City Club on a Monday. Likewise, Mr. August A. Napoli, Jr., President and CEO of United Way of Greater Cleveland, who gave the introduction noted that in the course of his career U.S. Senator Brown had appeared before the City Club of Cleveland some 26 times (counting this day) and likened his record to that of Steve Martin hosting "Saturday Night Live".

From our perspective, the message that U.S. Senator Brown wanted to convey in his address was that there was definitely hope in terms of preventing opioid addition and helping those who might become addicted to opioids but real progress will require a national, if not international, effort aimed at education, treatment and recovery similar to successful public health campaigns regarding tobacco usage and HIV/AIDS.  As he reminded us, statistics have shown that since 1964 the number of adults using tobacco (in some form) has been cut by almost two-thirds. 

Along these lines, one of the items that U.S. Senator Brown talked about the need for the medical community to move away from prescribing opoids to combat pain and, instead, explore the usage of alternative pain medications. He also spoke of measures that have been taken/will be taken to make more space available for treatment.  He was indeed heartened by efforts by law enforcement to work more closely with those offering treatment/recovery programs.

What's more, he referenced a bill that he will soon introduce that should result in more collaboration between the U.S. Health and Human Services Department and the Department of Labor in terms of treatment/recovery and workforce training.

In terms of funding, we did some research and found out that U.S. Senator Brown has already introduced legislation "to help the states better fight the opioid epidemic that is ravaging communities and families across the country. 'The Opioid Response Enhancement Act' would expand a grant program that was created as part of the bipartisan 21st Century Cures Act and ensure states have access to continued and additional funding for the next five years under this program." For more information please see https://www.brown.senate.gov/newsroom/press/release/brown-introduces-bill-to-help-states-fight-the-opioid-epidemic

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U.S. Senator Brown closed his presentation by reminding us that he wears a lapel pin depicting a canary in a birdcage recalling the days when miners took canaries down into the pits with them to test the air quality-if the canary lived then it was okay for the miners to work there but if the bird died it was another story.  At any rate, he observed that health practices have come a long way since then and, due to our efforts, will continue to progress.

During the Q and A, U.S. Senator Brown made it known that he would welcome questions on any subject. Accordingly, in addition to chemical dependency issues, he was queried about such issues as protection of pensions, gun control, cuts to the SNAP program, and politicizing the courts. 

We had our hand up to ask about what can be done to preserve DACA but we didn't expect to be called upon because we have asked a lot of questions at the City Club lately and we respect the wishes of the staff to include other questioners. Fortunately for us, we sat next to Ms. Cynthia White from the "League of Women Voters" who was also concerned about the DACA issue so she was given the microphone to ask about it.

U.S. Senator Brown answered her by telling us the story of a young undocumented woman from Guatemala who was brought to the United States by her parents when she was quite young and can't remember that much about Guatemala. Needless to say, although now married and working, she lives in great fear of deportation; so much so that she thoroughly checks out her car each day before she drives it so she will not be stopped. Furthermore, when she comes to a STOP sign she brings the car to a complete halt and counts to three before proceeding.

He went on to say that he considers our government to be very mean at this time but he believes that eventually the right things will be done. He only hopes that this will not require public awareness to be raised by consistent news reports and images of people being forcibly collared and lead away by our authorities.  

This powerful response earned U.S. Senator Brown some hearty applause from the audience including ourselves.

 

Michael Patterson

Community Liaison,

Margaret W. Wong & Assoc. Co., LLC