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National Association of Clinical Nurse Specialists Urges Congress to Pass Comprehensive Policies to Combat the U.S. Opioid Epidemic

New Coalition to Stop Opioid Overdose to Advance Legislation Will Address Growing Public Health Crisis

More than 10 million Americans report misusing opioids. To help arrest this unprecedented and growing epidemic, the National Association of Clinical Nurse Specialists (NACNS) has joined the Coalition to Stop Opioid Overdose, a group of leading state and national organizations committed to advancing meaningful legislative and regulatory policies, which was launched today.

“As APRNs who promote and implement the use of the latest research evidence in health care practice in a wide range of health care settings, clinical nurse specialists are a crucial part of any effort to increase patient safety,” said Sharon Horner, PhD, RN, MC-CNS, FAAN, President of NACNS and Professor and Dolores V. Sands Chair in Nursing Research at the University of Texas in Austin. “The National Association of Clinical Nurse Specialists joined the Coalition to Stop Opioid Overdose to help ensure that Congress sends meaningful legislation to the President’s desk this year.”

Congress, the Administration, public health agencies and a number of state legislatures have taken important initial steps to combat the opioid epidemic. Last week the U.S. House of Representatives passed 18 bills addressing the issue. In March, the U.S. Senate passed a bill that would fund grant programs to help state and local governments improve education and treatment for drug abuse, encourage medical providers to reduce unnecessary prescriptions, provide resources to help veterans deal with addiction, and give local law enforcement and mental health officials the resources needed to lower the death rate from overdoses. That same month, the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) approved additional opioid legislation, which is pending before the full Senate. The Coalition hopes to capitalize on this progress to ensure that comprehensive legislation to reduce opioid misuse, overdose and addiction is passed and fully funded.

The Coalition held its inaugural meeting today at the U.S. Capitol Visitor Center in Washington D.C. where speakers, including Dr. Jay Kaplan, President of the American College of Emergency Physicians, Justin Luke Riley, Advocate, Young People in Recovery and Dr. Yngvild Olsen, Director at Large of the American Society of Addiction Medicine, discussed strategies for addressing the opioid epidemic.

The Coalition’s efforts will focus around five key strategies:

  • Improving access to medication-assisted treatment for those with opioid addiction;
  • Expanding availability of naloxone in health care settings and beyond;
  • Implementing enhanced prescription drug monitoring programs that track the dispensing and prescribing of controlled substances;
  • Raising the level of opioid prescriber education; and
  • Enacting the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act

More than half of Americans (56 percent) say that they or someone they know has misused, been addicted to, or died from prescription pain medications, according to a recent Kaiser Health Tracking Poll. When patients can’t access treatment and recovery support services, addiction can lead to disability or premature death.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the rate of death from opioid-related overdose has quadrupled since the year 2000. Drug overdoses are the leading cause of accidental death in the United States, surpassing even traffic fatalities, and emergency room visits linked to misuse of prescription opioids are up by more than 50 percent since 2004.

Lack of access to opioid addiction treatment has exacerbated the problem. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved three medications approved to treat opioid use disorder. Drug abuse experts maintain that patients need access to all available options to determine the best course of treatment, but current prescribing limits restrict patients to using only one option.

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