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Huntington Mayor Discuss Opiate Epidemic with Obama Administration Officials

Mayor Steve Williams and several other local officials participated in a video conference Wednesday, Sept. 21, with Director of National Drug Control Policy Michael Botticelli, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Tom Frieden, and Drug Enforcement Administration Acting Administrator Chuck Rosenburg to discuss the response to the recent surge in opioid-related overdoses.

Other local officials who joined Mayor Williams in the meeting included Huntington Police Chief Joe Ciccarelli; Kenny Burner, West Virginia State Coordinator for Appalachia High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA) Huntington Fire Chief Carl Eastham; Mayor’s Office of Drug Control Policy members Jim Johnson, Jan Rader and Scott Lemley; Dr. Kevin Yingling, dean of the Marshall University School of Pharmacy; and Dr. Michael Kilkenny, physician director of the Cabell-Huntington Health Department.

Officials from Boone County, Kentucky, and Hamilton, County, Ohio, also participated in the meeting.

Director Botticelli spoke about the Obama Administration’s announcement this month of enhanced measures with the Chinese government to combat the supply of fentanyl and its analogues to the United States, and also emphasized the critical need to expand access to treatment for people with opioid use disorders.

“Federal agencies have been taking every available action they can,” Botticelli said. “However, to fully address the opioid epidemic, Congress needs to fund the President’s $1.1 billion budget request to make sure everyone who wants treatment for an opioid use disorder can get it.”

Dr. Frieden discussed methods for rapidly identifying fentanyl overdose outbreaks, the importance of the overdose-reversal medicine naloxone, and the need to expand access to medication-assisted treatment for individuals with opioid use disorder. Acting Administrator Rosenberg highlighted opportunities for coordination through the DEA’s 360 Program and discussed targeted enforcement activities.

Speaking to the needs in their respective communities, Mayor Williams and officials in Boone and Hamilton counties all emphasized how critical naloxone has been in reversing overdoses, but they also stressed the critical need for additional federal resources for treatment in their communities, as well as the importance of increased coordination between public health and public safety agencies.

“We are extremely fortunate to have had a discussion with the leaders of the White House’s Office of National Drug Control Policy, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the Drug Enforcement Administration about the scourge of addiction that has affected our community and many others across the country,” Mayor Williams said. “This was an opportunity for us to join with our local counterparts in Boone County, Kentucky, and Hamilton County, Ohio, and share with federal officials the challenges that our neighborhoods face.

“Director Botticelli reinforced that we are implementing strategies in Huntington that will lead to long-term solutions and assured us that lines of communication will remain open with his office and other federal leaders as we identify needed resources.”

Mayor Williams and other local officials requested the following during the conference call:

  1.  Immediate, sustainable funding for treatment programs and facilities.
  2.  Additional funding for the Cabell-Huntington Health Department’s Harm Reduction Program, which includes a syringe exchange, to expand the program to satellite locations in Cabell County and prevent HIV outbreaks like the one that occurred in Scott County, Indiana, in 2015.
  3.  Funding to ensure an adequate supply and access to naloxone for the foreseeable future.
  4.  Funding made available to medical centers and academic institutions for research focused on medically-assisted treatment and early intervention.
  5.  A need to address the drain on resources that are dedicated to children who are affected by drug abuse.
  6.  Funding for facilities such as Lily’s Place and Hoops Family Children’s Hospital in their ongoing efforts to care for infants diagnosed with neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS).
  7.  Resources to provide support services and counseling to first responders.
  8.  Real-time data provided by the Centers for Disease Control.
  9.  Funding for drug-analysis testing to ensure a quicker response time when identifying drugs ingested in overdoses.

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