The opioid crisis is officially a national public health emergency: Comments from VCU Health experts

The Trump administration on Thursday declared the opioid crisis a public health emergency.
The Trump administration on Thursday declared the opioid crisis a public health emergency.

The White House declared the opioid crisis a public health emergency Thursday. VCU Health experts weigh in on the potential impact of this decision on the opioid crisis in Virginia communities.

 

Alan Dow, M.D., assistant vice president of health sciences, Interprofessional Education and Collaborative Care; professor of internal medicine

Alan Dow, M.D.
Alan Dow, M.D.

“A national public health emergency accelerates some of the great work happening at VCU and around Virginia by providing needed resources for practitioners, students and patients. We need to retrain current health care practitioners to manage pain differently and to think about addiction in a new way. We also need students to see how they can make the care of people with addiction an integral part of their practice. Most importantly, people with addiction want help, and we need to figure out how to give them that help. Hopefully, this declaration will help us overcome this crisis.”

 

 

Jenny Fox, M.D., assistant professor, Neonatal Medicine, Children’s Hospital of Richmond at VCU

Jenny Fox, M.D.
Jenny Fox, M.D.

“As a neonatologist, I see the growing downstream effects of the opioid crisis every day. In the neonatal intensive care unit where I work, I help mothers who are addicted to opioids care for their infants who have been born with neonatal abstinence syndrome. My colleagues and I at the Children’s Hospital of Richmond at VCU have a unique opportunity to help a mother who is addicted to opioids change her life immediately following the birth of her child. By working directly with mothers and improving the nature of the home in which we discharge the baby with neonatal abstinence syndrome, we hope to stop the downhill spiral these families find themselves in and improve care for the next generation.”

 

 

Mishka Terplan, M.D., professor, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology; director of the VCU MOTIVATE clinic

Mishka Terplan, M.D.
Mishka Terplan, M.D.

“Because addiction has historically been neglected as a disease, we have an enormous need for treatment in the U.S. Declaring the opioid epidemic a public health emergency could really aid in improving access to treatment for substance use disorders. We have an opportunity to standardize how we assess substance use, misuse and addiction across all health care domains. Overall, I find the declaration helpful. It elevates addiction assessment as an essential component of health care and reminds the public how important access to treatment is.” 

 

 

 

Patricia Kinser, Ph.D., associate professor, Department of Family and Community Health Nursing, School of Nursing

Patricia Kinser, Ph.D.
Patricia Kinser, Ph.D.

“Hopefully this brings greater awareness to a growing problem. As a bio-behavioral researcher and educator of doctoral students, I hope this will facilitate increased funding opportunities for research on effective addiction prevention, alternative pain management options, and ways to simplify access to addiction treatment. At VCU Health and beyond, I also believe the declaration will solidify our ability to provide education on best practices for pain management to the next generation of prescribers.”

 

 

 

Overdose deaths in the United States involving prescription opioids have quadrupled since 1999, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In 2016, Gov. Terry McAuliffe and Virginia Health Commissioner Marissa Levine declared the opioid addiction crisis a public health emergency in Virginia.

At VCU and VCU Health, efforts are underway to combat this public health crisis — through addiction treatment, pain management, health care policy, education and research.

To end the opioid epidemic, VCU health sciences faculty are changing the way pain management is taught

VCU researchers combat opiate addiction

Heroin and prescription painkiller overdoses kill at least two Virginians every day, VCU reports

VCU Health outpatient clinic treats addiction with compassion and medication

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