Baker joins call for end to nation’s opioid epidemic

Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker joined a unified call on Saturday for an end to the country’s opioid epidemic.

The rate of overdose related deaths in America increased 137 percent from 2000 to 2014, while the rate of overdose deaths involving opioids increased 200 percent over that time, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports.

Baker, the chairman of the National Governors Association’s Health and Human Services Committee, was joined by New Hampshire Gov. Maggie Hassan, the vice chairwoman of the committee, and American Medical Association chair-elect Patrice Harris in calling for an end to the opioid epidemic in a joint statement.

“Governors and physicians find it unacceptable that nearly 30,000 Americans die each year from the misuse and abuse of prescription opioids and heroin,” the joint statement said. “To end this national epidemic that claims the lives of so many of our family members and fellow citizens, governors, physicians, state legislatures and other stakeholders must join together to take action.”

Physicians who prescribe opioids and other controlled substances to patients would benefit from prescription drug monitoring programs, which are databases that help identify possible signs of abuse and enhance patient care, the joint statement said.

“We agree that education about effective pain management, substance use disorder and related areas should begin in medical school and continue throughout a physician’s career,” Baker, Hassan and Harris wrote. “That means physicians who prescribe opioids and other controlled substances must be sure they have the most up-to-date training and education to prescribe and administer those substances safely and effectively. It is imperative we provide care for patients in pain. However, prescribing medications excessively or ‘just in case’ is not acceptable and continues to fuel this growing epidemic….”

Additionally, the group said, treatment of substance abuse disorder must be a priority going forward, including an expansion of treatment systems.

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