Salt Lake City, Utah- (News4Utah) – The man who has been charged with overseeing America’s fight against the opioid crisis is visiting Utah.
Admiral Brett Giroir says it’s the number one public health challenge of our time.
He’s confident we can prevail but says it will take everyone working together.
The opioid epidemic knows no boundaries as it tightens its grip on our country.
Last year, about 72,000 people died of an overdose, hundreds of those lost are from our state.
“Opioid use disorder addiction is a real disease. Once a person is addicted to opioids, it’s like telling you please don’t breathe for the next ten minutes. You can not do it. Your brain chemistry changes, your whole life changes.”
Admiral Giroir is the Assistant Secretary for Health with the Department of Health and Human Services.
He’s in charge of the federal government’s response. He says that includes funds for states to use flexibly, outlining best practices, creating successful models and more.
He says the same solution isn’t going to work everywhere.
“We’re trying to recognize that states probably know what’s best for their populations. We make sure they follow evidence-based practice, but over that wide variety we give states the freedom to work.”
He’s in Utah keynoting a symposium at the University of Utah and checking out what’s happening here from the front-lines.
He says while most states are seeing an increase in the mortality rate, Utah is setting an example with a nearly 12% drop.
“Because of the combined programs, and the community efforts and all the things that are being done you are one of the states that are actually leading the fight in seeing results very early on.”
He credits recent state laws to create a database to track prescriptions and make Naloxone, an overdose reversal drug, readily available in any pharmacy as innovative steps in the battle.
Steps that he believes one day will help put an end to the devastation.
“I know we are going to defeat the opioid outbreak. The amount of prescriptions for opioids are going down, the amount of people in therapy are going up, the amount of medication-assisted treatment is going up, Naloxone is being distributed very widely.”
Just this week, President Trump announced he wants to file a federal lawsuit against some opioid manufacturers.
Giroir talks more about that and what he thinks about medical marijuana as a possible pain management alternative in the full interview.