There is no denying that America’s opioid crisis has begun to take center stage with news outlets across the country. And rightfully so, we might add since it is leading to literally thousands of overdose deaths each day. Last week President Donald Trump took to the podium, declaring the epidemic a “health emergency” and yesterday, it was former President Bill Clinton’s turn; as he made an impassioned speech during the Baltimore’s 2017 Opioid Summit.
Held at Johns Hopkins University in Maryland, the annual event drew international attention. President Clinton, not surprisingly, received the lion’s share of the media attention, but it used it well as he addressed the attendees.
One of Clinton’s biggest points was the need for support when it comes to dependent Americans. He urged lawmakers to work towards decriminalizing those afflicted and increase recovery efforts.
“The good news is that we’re finally acting like grown ups and treating this like a public health problem and not a criminal justice problem,” the former president told the press. “The bad news is the response has been woefully inadequate. What we’re here today to do is figure out what to do next.”
Clinton then went on to moderate a round table panel, which included Baltimore City Health Commissioner Dr. Leana Wen, Democratic representative Elijah Cummings and Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers. Dr. Wen had previously made news for pushing local first responders to carry naloxone at all times. In the fight against opioid overdoses, naloxone has proven to be one of the only effective tools.
To their credit, Baltimore has been acknowledged as a leader when it comes to fighting the crisis. They were one of the first cities in the nation to issue blanket prescriptions for naloxone and offered thousands of residents the opportunity to receive free overdose response training.
Rep. Cummings also made a big impact during the panel, setting his sights strictly on the insurance companies who he believes have contributed to the crisis.
“We must press insurance companies to eliminate their bias in favor opioid base pain killers,” Cummings told the crowd. “And we must challenge our friend in Congress to expand public health funding.”
But, as expected, it was former President Clinton who stole the show. His speech drew so much attention, that it sparked a social media trend and got the #OpioidSummit hashtag to go viral.
You can see a portion of it below, courtesy of CBS Baltimore.