Mayors Group Discusses Local Responses to Opioid Crisis

Aug 11, 2017

Credit Oklahoma Watch

Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter isn’t the only one suing the makers of opioid painkillers.

Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley said the costs of the opioid epidemic are too great for her city to bear, so Dayton became the first Ohio city to sue drug makers.

"The expense for this — the 40 percent increase in mutual aid for first responders, we don't even have enough ambulances to save people's lives in the City of Dayton; the $370,000 we've already spent just this year on Naloxone; the work that our police officers and first responders have to do on the ground; the hollowing out of neighborhoods over this addiction — those that started this mess should clean this up," Whaley said.

Hunter sued more than a dozen drug manufacturers in June, saying they’re culpable for high rates of opioid addiction and death in Oklahoma. Oklahoma has one of the highest prescription rates in the nation: 128 prescriptions per 100 people.

President Trump has declared the opioid crisis a national emergency, but the U.S. Conference of Mayors says its members and their fellow mayors will be the ones on the front lines. The group held a panel discussion Friday on the matter.

Whaley said treating addiction takes a lot of time and collaboration.

"We're the only people that can really get every single group in our community together to call meetings, to really make sure that we can touch every single piece of this issue, because you need your whole community to do it," Whaley said.

Dr. Josh Sharfstein with Johns Hopkins University said mayors can encourage their medical and law enforcement communities to continue positive steps, like smarter prescribing and offering drug court.

Sharfstein said illegal drugs are increasingly being laced with powerful opioids like fentanyl, however, which will require other solutions.

"Different places are thinking about doing field testing and allowing drug users to bring their drugs to see whether fentanyl is in there, giving them an opportunity to get into treatment at the same time," Sharfstein said.