NSC Brings Opioid Memorial to D.C., Calls for Legislation to Curb Opioid Deaths

NSC Brings Opioid Memorial to D.C., Calls for Legislation to Curb Opioid Deaths

The Prescribed to Death memorial will be in the nation’s capital thanks to a partnership between the Executive Office of the President, the Department of the Interior and the National Park Service.


Washington, D.C. – Today at the opening of its opioid memorial on the Ellipse in President’s Park, the National Safety Council called on federal leaders to adopt a number of legislative actions that are proven to save lives and reduce the number of opioid overdoses. As the country finds itself in the throes of the worst drug crisis in recorded U.S. history, the Council is asking lawmakers to double down on existing policies, expand others and implement new actions around prevention, prescribing practices, treatment, and data collection.

NSC made the request in front of its traveling Prescribed to Death opioid exhibit and memorial to those lost to the opioid epidemic. The request comes just days after issuing recommendations to the states in its Prescription Nation report released at the National Rx and Heroin Summit in Atlanta.

“The National Safety Council commends Congress and the Administration for taking a number of actions to address the crisis in our medicine cabinets,” said Deborah A.P. Hersman, president and CEO of the National Safety Council. “However, this epidemic needs even more aggressive intervention. We hope that putting a face on the statistics of the thousands lost to this epidemic inspires a greater sense of urgency among all stakeholders to continue their work to eliminate preventable drug overdose deaths.”

Specifically, the Council urges the federal government to address the opioid epidemic through to the following actions:

  • Require use of prescription drug monitoring programs (PDMP). In states where physicians are required to check an electronic database before writing an opioid prescription, the odds that two or more doctors would be giving pain relievers for non-medical purposes to a single patient were reduced by 80%. Congress should incentivize states to make the use of operational PDMPs mandatory, require collection of prescription information within 24 hours and encourage interstate sharing of PDMP data.
  • Increase access to medication assisted treatment (MAT). Addiction is a chronic disease that requires ongoing treatment, and MAT, in combination with counseling and behavioral therapies, provides a proven and effective “whole patient” approach to treating opioid use disorder. It should be cost effective and readily available to those who need it.
  • Expand funding for naloxone distribution. Naloxone reverses opioid overdose, and every first responder should be equipped with it. State and local governments are struggling to cover the costs, and this funding should be made available immediately. Further, insurers and third party payers should be required to include coverage of naloxone so that anyone can afford the ability to save a life.
  • Improve data collection around overdose survivals and deaths. Tracking opioid use by making overdose a reportable condition helps medical providers, law enforcement and public health officials understand the scope of the problem. Congress should incentivize states to make overdose and overdose fatalities a reportable health condition, so that stakeholders have accurate, timely and actionable information.
  • Engage workplaces in the fight against this epidemic. Over 70% of people with a substance use disorder are in the workforce. Workplaces are the perfect place to educate employees about opioid use disorder and assist with treatment and recovery. The NSC Prescription Drug Employer Kit can provide actionable resources for employers and strategies for policymakers.
  • Require prescriber education on the risks and safe use of opioids. Congress should direct DEA to initiate a rulemaking requiring continued medical education on effective pain management, including the risk of overdose from and addiction to opioids, for providers registered under the Controlled Substances Act. Further, academic programs for medical, dental and nursing students should include instruction on effective pain management and identifying and treating addiction.
  • Require prescribing guidelines based on best practices. Physician and dental organizations should develop comprehensive practice guidelines for the treatment of acute pain, and reference the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Guideline for Prescribing Opioids for Chronic Pain. Congress should incentivize state medical boards to adopt these guidelines, and require Veterans Health Administration and other federal providers to adhere to their recommendations, with support from the administration.
  • Reduce stigma. It is difficult to encourage Americans to advocate for change if they believe addiction is a decision rather than a disease. We must reduce the stigma and encourage more individuals suffering from the disease of addiction to seek help.

It is imperative that new laws be accompanied by public education. The Prescribed to Death exhibit is intended to begin to fill the education gap and encourage visitors to have discussions with their families, friends and prescribers about the risks involved with taking opioids. One in three Americans who were prescribed an opioid did not realize the medicine they were taking was an opioid, according to the NSC survey.

Prescribed to Death is free and open to the public from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. April 12-18 on the Ellipse in President’s Park, on Constitution Ave. between 15th and 17th streets. Visit stopeverydaykillers.org for information about the campaign.

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