Attorney general leads panel taking broad approach to problem
Remember when opioid abuse was a national emergency?
For about half a news cycle, the national media stopped worrying about the latest presidential tweet and paid some attention to an issue that really matters to families in the heart of the nation.
Opioid abuse, driven by excessive prescriptions, is destroying lives in America. The national emergency hasn’t passed, although much of the media attention has.
To its credit, the state of Oklahoma is still on the case, looking at the spectrum of ways it can address the still-real emergency.
A nine-member blue-ribbon commission, led by Attorney General Mike Hunter, will hold its first meeting from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday at the state Capitol. The meeting will be open to the public and webcast at http://bit.ly/2uZTzFx.
Hunter says back-of-the-envelope computations make it clear that opioid abuse has a financial impact of at least $1 billion a year on the state, including higher prison costs and higher medical costs.
Here’s another astonishing statistic: Physicians and other prescribers wrote orders for enough opioids last year in the 14 counties surrounding Tulsa to provide every man, woman and child with 90 pills.
Hunter says addressing the issue will require a broad strategy, including prevention, intervention, education, treatment, law enforcement and rehabilitation.
In the past, the state’s “solutions” to addiction issues have been long on incarceration and short on treatment. That’s a failed strategy that warped the state’s budget priorities and left everyone involved frustrated.
We can solve this problem, but we can’t incarcerate our way to a solution.
Hunter is approaching the issue with wisdom drawn from that failure and with an eye toward producing a plan of action for the next Legislature.
We’ll be watching his commission’s progress and pushing for a balanced, effective approach to a still very real emergency.