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September 04, 2019 (Cleveland)

HHS Secretary Azar and Key Federal Government Officials meet with The Center’s Leadership to Discuss Opioid Epidemic

 Lisa AndersonBrian LaneOn Sept. 4, Brian Lane, president and CEO of The Center for Health Affairs, and Lisa Anderson, senior vice president, joined U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar in Washington, D.C., for an opioid roundtable discussion. Secretary Azar, key staff members, along with directors from the Office of National Drug Policy and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, convened with leaders from Dayton, OH, and Huntington, West Virginia. The group discussed a wide variety of issues related to the opioid epidemic. Secretary Azar acknowledged that addiction is a disease not a moral failing and must be treated as such.

Lane and Anderson were able to discuss the collaborative work and outcomes of the Northeast Ohio Hospital Opioid Consortium members:

  • Cleveland Clinic
  • MetroHealth
  • St. Vincent Charity Medical Center
  • University Hospitals
  • VA Northeast Ohio Healthcare System
  • The Center for Health Affairs
  • Academy of Medicine of Cleveland and Northern Ohio

There was interest in how the effort was convened and if it could be replicated by hospitals throughout the country. In addition, there was discussion around Opioid Consortium hospital efforts to increase the number of Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT) waivers obtained by local providers and the impact access to MAT and MAT utilization is having as part of a holistic approach to treating opioid use disorder.

Secretary Azar expressed concern in the rise of methamphetamine throughout the communities represented at the roundtable. All parties agreed there was an increase, and 12 out of 32 states now have more methamphetamine deaths than opioid deaths. The drug cartels are altering their product pipelines from heroin to methamphetamine, and opioids are mixed in or given away for free, resulting in increased co-dependencies. Secretary Azar said the opioid epidemic will teach America how to deal with all future drug epidemics.

Lane and Anderson were able to share the work of the Opioid Consortium, including the recent launch of the online Naloxone Toolkit, an education portal to educate clinical and non-clinical staff, and the recent CDC grant through its Overdose Data to Action program and the strategies it will support including support for Ohio’s prescription drug monitoring program (PDMP) and emergency department prescriber education through the portal.

At the close of the meeting, Director Jim Carroll of the Office of National Drug Control Policy and others expressed interest in visiting Cleveland to meet with the Opioid Consortium and learn more about the work being done in the fight against opioid addiction.

“We were honored to bring the ground-breaking work of the Opioid Consortium to the attention of federal officials and show the tremendous progress gained in the effort to combat this epidemic in our community,” states Lisa Anderson following the discussions.

MORE: For more on The Center’s meeting with Secretary Azar and the work of the Opioid Consortium, contact us

TWEETABLE: Leaders from @neohospitals, @BLANE247 & @lga177, met with HHS @SecAzar to discuss the work of the Northeast Ohio Hospital #OpioidConsortium in combating the opioid crisis. 


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