The White House hosted a summit on the opioid epidemic in the United States that including members of the Trump administration, families, and stakeholders on Thursday.
The summit included a video featuring those whose lives have been touched by the epidemic, including Dr. Jerome Adams, the Surgeon General of the United States.
“My family is suffering from substance abuse disorder,” Adams said. “My brother Phillip is in prison due to the crimes he committed to support his addiction.”
“His illness affected my entire family — emotionally, medically and financially,” Adams said. “As a trauma anesthesiologist, I have seen things that would make the average person cringe.”
But, Adams said, visiting his brother in prison was even more difficult.
“It was all the more agonizing because despite my knowledge and experience I couldn’t prevent or fix his illness,” Adams said.
He said he shared his story to help others and encourage people to share their stories, because “addiction touches every community.”
“That’s why I’m asking everyone to partner with me to fight for a healthier country,” Adams said. “Because for me and for all too many Americans, stopping the opioid epidemic is not only pressing, it’s personal.”
Former Fox News personality Eric Bolling, who lost his son from an opioid overdose, was also in the video. He warned parents about the “not my kid syndrome” that can have tragic consequences.
First lady Melania Trump opened the event by speaking about her commitment to helping women and babies affected by the crisis and introduced a woman who lost her son from an overdose.
Also speaking on panels detailing the administration’s efforts to combat the epidemic were Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson, Secretary of Veteran Affairs David J. Shulkin, and Attorney General Jeff Sessions.
Azar said the administration is asking for a $13 billion package focused on prevention, treatment, and recovery.
Sessions spoke about the law enforcement piece of the pie in fighting the epidemic, including the arrest of 412 people in July for medical fraud. One hundred and twenty individuals, including doctors, were arrested for prescribing and distributing opioids — the largest “medical takedown” in U.S. history.
All of the panelists were optimistic that this concerted effort would make an impact on an epidemic that killed 42,249 people in 2016 alone, according to HHS. In that same year, 2.1 million people had “an opioid use disorder.”
“We can solve this,” Carson said. “And save thousands of lives in the process.”
“We are at a point where we are going to make some progress in America, I am convinced,” Sessions said.
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